Geotechnical Engineering Support for Wolf Creek Dam Deep Barrier Wall Construction

 View of concurrent drilling operations along working platform at the Wolf Creek Dam that is located on the Cumberland River. View of concurrent drilling operations along working platform at the Wolf Creek Dam that is located on the Cumberland River.

The Wolf Creek Dam is located on the Cumberland River in the western part of Russell County, Kentucky. The dam provides hydroelectric power generation, flood management, water storage for year-round navigation, and water recreation. In addition, the dam serves as part of U.S. Highway 127. Seepage issues were first identified during the original construction and a major seepage control project was initiated in the 1970s. Because of ongoing seepage problems in the foundation and the associated concerns for dam stability, the Wolf Creek Dam has become a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) priority. In January 2007, the USACE placed the dam in Dam Safety Action Class I, a designation applied when there is a "high risk'" for failure. USACE and its primary contractor, a joint venture of Treviicos (Italy) and Soletanche Bachy (France) (TSJV), commenced design and construction of a nearly 300-foot deep hydraulic barrier wall along the nearly one-mile-long dam.

Geosyntec's Scope of Services

TSJV retained Geosyntec to provide engineering support services leveraging our expertise in soils, geochemistry, geotechnical engineering, information management systems, and quality assurance related to the ongoing barrier wall work, including access road upgrade design on the platform, platform drainage improvements, slurry treatment and disposal, stormwater and process water treatment and management, and disposal area design and construction. Geosyntec is currently implementing elements of the quality assurance program for verification of the constructed vertical barrier wall for the TSJV team. In collaboration with TSJV and USACE, Geosyntec developed and implemented the Wolf Creek Information Management System (WCIMS), an innovative geographic information system (GIS) based application to manage and visualize all construction and performance data that are maintained in a relational database. The WCIMS allows all stakeholders immediate web access to all project information.

Notable Accomplishments

Geosyntec developed and implemented processes related to the spent-slurry processing facility. TSJV maintains two distinct excavation operations for the project, one involving excavations of soil within the embankment and the other involving limestone rock and concrete. Using a series of bench-scale tests, Geosyntec identified a polymer blend and developed a materials handling strategy that would efficiently "dewater" the spent polymer. Using these results, Geosyntec re-designed the production spent-slurry processing facility, including the use of production hydrocyclones, to accommodate the concurrent handling of the two spent-polymer streams, maximize the development of recycled process water, and efficiently dry and dispose of the dewatered solids going forward. As part of its support for the project's QA program, Geosyntec envisioned, developed, and then implemented the WCIMS. This system allowed the team to efficiently collate and manage all historical and recent geotechnical information, barrier design and construction documents, geotechnical instrumentation data, and project management information. Using a platform comprising a GIS model and relational database, Geosyntec applied its expertise in geotechnical engineering design and construction to provide project stakeholders with a wide range of visualized project information through a secure access portal.

Project Overview

  • Location: Jamestown, Kentucky, USA
  • Client: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • Project Practice Areas: Contaminated Site Assessment and Cleanup, Geotechnical and Geological Analysis, Modeling, and Engineering
  • Type of Facility: Earthen Dam
  • Services Provided: Geotechnical Engineering Support; Spent Slurry Processing Facility Design; Construction Data Management; Quality Control for Verification Drilling; Design and Permitting of Disposal Facility
  • Type of Work: Geotechnical Engineering
  • Company: Geosyntec Consultants
  • Governing Regulation: USA Federal
Geosyntec Consultants
Geosyntec is a specialized consulting and engineering firm that works with private and public sector clients to address new ventures and complex problems involving our environment, natural resources, and civil infrastructure.

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