Dams and Reservoirs

Failing dam infrastructure is becoming a major challenge for dam owners throughout the United States.  Maintaining existing dams, following state and federal regulations, finding sites for new dams, permitting and constructing new reservoirs can be challenging for many owners, particularly owners who may only manage one or two impoundments. Conversely, owners who manage a numerous facilities may wish to implement common standards across all facilities.

S&ME supports owners with all of their dam and reservoir needs, from routine inspections to siting, permitting and designing brand new reservoirs. We appreciate that our clients are faced with complex and highly visible decisions. Furthermore, we understand how dynamic the industry is, from emerging technologies to changes in government regulations. S&ME personnel stay abreast of technical and regulatory developments, in part, through their participation in the professional organizations. S&ME personnel have developed and maintain sound working relationships with State regulators through the course of their various projects.

S&ME employs a wide range of technical staff, including hydraulic, geotechnical, structural and civil engineers; geophysicists; construction managers and technicians; non-destructive and laboratory testing staff; and natural and cultural resource professionals who are able to support all aspects of dam evaluation, design, construction and permitting. In particular, S&ME has developed experience with:

  • New dam and reservoir siting studies, investigation, natural and cultural resource studies, conceptual through final design, permitting, materials prequalification, construction administration and construction testing, documentation and certification
  • Safety inspections and emergency planning of dams including preparation of dam break analyses and mapping
  • Evaluation of seepage and potential slope instability of existing dams and the development of temporary and permanent remedial measures
  • Inspection of concrete features including spillway walls and slabs and monolithic sections
  • Complex hydrology and hydraulic studies to evaluate the ability of spillways to safely pass extreme hydrologic events and to complete inundation mapping;
  • Design of new or improved spillways and other measures, such as overtopping protection, to safely pass design floods
  • Development of detail operations, maintenance and inspection manuals and training of owner’s staff in the inspection procedures
  • Risk evaluations including Potential Failure Mode Analysis
  • Dam removal and site restoration
  • Design of wetland and stream mitigation and restoration

Although dam and reservoir projects can require years to complete, S&ME can also mobilize quickly to support dam emergencies, including around the clock inspection of dams as part of an emergency action plan, mobilization of drilling rigs to expediently install piezometers to evaluate unexpected seepage, the design of emergency repairs, and interaction with regulators to resolves problems and concerns.

S&ME has completed numerous new dam investigations and design projects for a large variety of owners, including flood control and water supply reservoirs for states and municipalities, coal ash impoundments for utilities, and recreation lakes for non-profit organizations, home owner associations and individual property owners among others. These projects typically consist of the subsurface investigation for the dam and borrow area; laboratory testing; hydrologic and hydraulic analyses with flood routing to size spillway structures; seepage, settlement, and slope stability analyses; design of outlet works (lake drains) and outfall structures; and associated design analyses. These activities lead to the development of final plans and specifications for construction of the new dam and spillway structures.

Dam Removal and Restoration

Although constructing new dams and reservoirs can be professionally satisfying, S&ME recognizes that many existing dams no longer fulfill their original purpose and can be an impediment to water quality and public safety. S&ME’s core dam design and permitting experience is well complemented by our environmental design and mitigation experience related to dam removal. S&ME has completed numerous environmental designs as part of our dam, dam removal, storm water management studies, and stream restoration projects. S&ME has extensive professional experience in storm water management design, storm water monitoring, stream restoration, best management practice design and operations, drainage improvements, watershed management planning, erosion and sediment control, analytical interpretation of water quality data, flow measurements, and water quality modeling.