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2 dam failures in MI
5

2 dam failures in MI

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

I looked at the video and seen the Edenville dam at the moment before collapse. The downstream slope appears to be 1.5H:1V with a vegetative cover. It looks like a shallow failure occurred likely due to the high phreatic levels in the dam causing an elevated seepage emergence at the toe of the dam. This then allowed for an internal erosion mechanism to erode the core of the dam and finally cause a collapse of the crest to allow for continued erosion of the dam and large release of the upstream reservoir. From the video the Sanford Dam has a working spillway which was probably inundated to quickly to dissipate the surge of water and over topped, where it likely did not have an emergency spillway to protect from a large release.

The video states the last assessments gave them a unsatisfactory and fair condition for the upstream and downstream dams. As tragic as this is I believe that both dams failed because of a reliance of previous track record, a lack of a emergency spillways, relying on outdated hydro-logical and stability modelling and lack of real time instrument monitoring. This could have been prevented if the Edenville dam downstream slope was flattened slightly and if both dams had emergency spillways.

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

I recall discussions about these dams when I lived in MI 45 years ago.
It must be a real mess up there.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
P.E. Metallurgy

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

I found this article from the detroit news and it has a nice commentary of the life of the dam which was built in 1925 as a hydro power dam and the flood risk was identified in 1999 by FERC. I find it odd that the owners were unable or unwilling to increase the spillway capacity for 20 years. The article states the dam is set to be sold in 2022 so $100 million dollars in upgrades can happen but the current upgrade plan is in court for being insufficient to provide probable maximum flood protection.

https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michi...

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

Has anyone seen a video of the failures? I'm surprised I can't find one considering how closely they were being monitored.

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

3
The technical failure of the dam is of nearly no interest. It's an old earth dam, operated by a financially failing company that is desperate for a buyout and it rained a great deal. Earth dams blow out. It's what they always do if they are poorly maintained and this dam was already on the list as being poorly maintained. However it wasn't under government control to demand it be repaired so the owners blew off repairs. It's a minor echo of the Johnstown Flood.

There was no surprise in this failure and, in fact, a large number of people were there to photograph the breach as it happened.


I expect the cleanup to involve throwing paper towels again.

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

Quote (human909 (Structural) 21 May 20 00:48)

As far as I am aware the Sanford Dam hasn't failed yet. But it is overtopping so it is likely a matter of time...

The Sanford dam, for all intents and purposes, no longer exists.

Youtube

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

This is a global comment not to the geographical location of these two.

I don't understand why when operating licenses are removed that they are not forced to empty these dams, drain them and keep them empty until they are sorted.

Most things if it fails a safety check then it gets shut down. To leave something full and operating is just unbelievable.

I have zero clue how dams work or are constructed.

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

(OP)
They can't see what is gone from Sanford dam until the water level drops, but this feature makes no sense. "However, Sanford Dam's "fuse plug" — a spillway feature designed to wash away in high flood conditions to keep the dam from collapsing — has been washed out."

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

From this drone video I rather suspect the Sanford dam is no more. Part remains, but the main section to the North west looks like it has been completely destroyed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzgu_Mnkfgk

There may be some little hump remaining, but it will be several metres lower than it once was





Remember - More details = better answers
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RE: 2 dam failures in MI

Quote (Phil1934)

They can't see what is gone from Sanford dam until the water level drops, but this feature makes no sense. "However, Sanford Dam's "fuse plug" — a spillway feature designed to wash away in high flood conditions to keep the dam from collapsing — has been washed out."
Fuse Plugs are pretty common on smaller dams, but they are on larger ones too. Its usually an earthen berm across a low spot along a spillway. It acts as an automatic natural "gate" that will be "opened" (eroded) once the water either erodes internally or overtops. Then the spillway can pass more water. It's a technique to help manage outflows during larger events. Common lower rain events may not trigger the fuseplug to activate, which will spare downstream innundation when its not necessary.


I'm still wondering what the initiating failure mode is for the Edenvill Dam. The video posted earlier shows the downstream face relatively intact, with some upstream depressions. There was water running over the crest indicated some form of overtopping, but did it overtop because there was a natural low spot along the crest, or did that potion of the crest settle because there was an internal erosion feature.

90% of my projects are Dam Safety projects on Earth and Rockfill dams, and I am waiting to see what the results of the investigation are, and if it will change our dam safety programs. However, I have a feeling this was avoidable based on current practices, but I will wait on a full investigation.

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

The issue about lowering the lake which has built up behind the edenville dam is now evident after its failure - huge mud flats and lots of no doubt expensive lake side properties with jetties now several metres above water level and a long way from the shallow river in the middle of the valley. The residents would not have been happy.

Lowering a lake that big would take a very long time to not flood the downstream areas.

The dam which nearly burst in yorkshire this year was a small fraction of the size and it took days to drain it with huge pumps and the drains fully open.

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

I suspect the fuse plug was that concrete structure but it only works if it is not completely destroyed by the water.

It's not clear if the mass of timber and debris is cause or effect in terms of blocking the main sluice gates, but any dam which is already high from rain to contain an upstream dam failure is asking rather a lot.

The initial edenville dam failure looks like a slope failure to me - see the video earlier posted by human909

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

Here's an image from Google Earth showing the Sanford Dam taken in June 2018. I assume that the circled area is this so-called 'plug':



Compare this with the pictures posted by LittleInch. BTW, my wife has an Aunt who lives less than 3/4 mile Southwest of the dam and a 1/4 mile from the river. We tried reaching her yesterday but got no answer on either her cell or landline. If we don't reach her today, we'll try calling her son.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
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The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
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RE: 2 dam failures in MI

Quote (LittleInch)

The initial edenville dam failure looks like a slope failure to me - see the video earlier posted by human909

That was what caused the breach, the loss of downstream slope. However what caused the slope failure is what will be the initiating failure mode. If the video was a little longer before the slope failure, there could be a little more info. I am starting to think it was an internal erosion failure mode. This failure event tree shows how this would happen. A void was formed within the embankment from erosion, which then lead to a collapse crest when the void collapsed. This also gave a seepage path along the base of that slope failure; you can see the water flowing out just at the bottom of the mass of soil. The slope then failed, leading to breach.

Interestingly, both dams were rehabilitated with a toe drain system to help prevent internal erosion. However, it appears from historic aerial imagery on Google Earth that the portion of Edenville dam that failed did not have this toe drain system installed.

This is all purely speculation and my personal opinion, and I am waiting for more facts and investigations to come out.

Quote (LittleInch)

I suspect the fuse plug was that concrete structure but it only works if it is not completely destroyed by the water.
Concrete cannot effectively erode, so it was not the fuseplug. The concrete spillway appears to have a soil cover based on aerial imagery. This soil would act as the fuseplug. On-the-ground photos will help establish that. I'm sure some of this is available through FERC.

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

Sorry for the multiple messages, but I'm still thinking this through. It is possible this was purely a slope failure due to the increased seepage and rain saturation. In that case, the slope was not stable during an unusual event and should have been rehabilitated. As I said before, this portion did not have the toe drain. Looking at the other portions that did have this toe drain, an additional berm was constructed at the toe. This berm could have helped with slope stability, but again this is all purely speculation.

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

Well I didn't mean it was concrete but you seem to be correct. The plug idea looks like it was designed to go once over topping occurred and result in washout of maybe a metre or so of earth on top of the concrete spill way.

This is a rendered gE impage but seems to show the detail you describe.



I suspect the remains of the concrete spillway is the disturbed water area you see on the drone footage.

However if the water level is so high and the flow so massive that you over top the entire earthen bank on its far side then the fuse plug is irrelevant as there is now nothing to stop virtually the entire lake from draining.

It's only because the downstream river has backed up so much that the lake isn't already empty now.

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

Here's a video report from our friend Juan Browne, of Orville Dam fame, with a report on the failure of the Edenville and Sanford Dams (I guess he's now considered an expert on dam failures):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpZMb5TR-hU

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

Quote (LittleInch)


However if the water level is so high and the flow so massive that you over top the entire earthen bank on its far side then the fuse plug is irrelevant as there is now nothing to stop virtually the entire lake from draining.

Yes, you are correct. I was being overly semantic, my apologies. The whole reason this dam, the Sanford dam, had its license revoked was because it would overtop during the PMF, about a 1/10000 annual chance of exceedance storm. While this storm was not that event, the upstream failure released more water. This dam did fail from overtopping with inadequate spillway capacity, fuseplug or not. Interestingly, we can see the two most common failure modes between these two dams.
Also going through aerial imagery, the concrete spillway wasn't even original, and was added after a FERC order in 1999. Who knows what the damage would have been without the spillway.

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

I don't think it's so much that the downstream rive has backed-up as it's just that the Sanford Dam is the LAST of four dams on the Tittabawassee River and from there on down, it's all just a big flat flood plane that has basically filled-up. If you watch the Juan Browne video that I posted it kind of shows that near the end of the video when he shows that last section of the river as it flows through the city of Midland.

Here's a news report from a local (Saginaw) TV station from yesterday afternoon:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCOrAaaSuA0

Note that my wife and I used to live and work in Saginaw, until we moved to SoCal in 1980, and before we were married, my wife used to live in Sanford with her aunt, whom we're now trying to get in contact with.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

Quote (Milliontown)

Sorry for the multiple messages, but I'm still thinking this through. It is possible this was purely a slope failure due to the increased seepage and rain saturation. In that case, the slope was not stable during an unusual event and should have been rehabilitated. As I said before, this portion did not have the toe drain. Looking at the other portions that did have this toe drain, an additional berm was constructed at the toe. This berm could have helped with slope stability, but again this is all purely speculation.
Don't apologize. You seem to be one of the more knowledgeable on dams here. I'm pretty rusty.

The original video was slightly longer. I've seen it elsewhere but I can't find it again. The original video showed significant water seeping through especially towards the top though it did not seem like it was overtopping. From my limited knowledge, it seems like a slope failure from a saturated dam wall.

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

I saw a few photos of the broken dam and it looked like a clay plug but not all the way to the top. So the earth mound gets saturated with a high level and then slides down fatally weakening the dam wall which breaks through moments later.

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

I had a closer look at the video posted by Human909

The google earth shows there is a road or path at the crest which is 6m or 20 feet at least.


The video image shows water up to the downstream berm, roadway is flooded and that is not 6 m or 20 ft of crest.
Water is overflowing
Sinkhole on crest


Shallow circular failure occurs


Water eroding circular failure


I am not familiar with fuse plug spillways but if the goal was to have the spillway erode down to below the elevation of the working spillway then it worked. If it was only supposed to erode a minimal height but maintain the reservoir to the working spillway elevation than it did not work. The fact that a circular failure occurred instead of a erosion rill which expands shows the downstream slope is over steepened. When the water subsides it will become evident as to how much of the spillway remains and if a channel formed lower than the intended spillway crest.

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

Quote:

I don't understand why when operating licenses are removed that they are not forced to empty these dams, drain them and keep them empty until they are sorted.

Lake Wixom was lowered and the plant idled after they lost their license however the governor and state attorney general filed a lawsuit after residents complained about property values and loss of marine wildlife. The state purportedly recently forced them to increase the water levels again nearly to capacity for summer recreation, which isnt surprising as this hasn't been an overly wet spring.

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

This is edenville on 22nd May

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yuVaZFBGG8

Basically the dam has ceased to exist and water level would be lower if the downstream system could accept more water.



What's left of the concrete "fuse plug"

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

Crazy that you have a dam, feeding a dam, feeding a damn! And, that if the first one craps-out it's automatically going to kill the next one, that's going to wipe-out the third one! It's insanity.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

I think it's fairly common - you just don't want the first one to fail.

Does give you a bit more time to prepare the downstream locations for the rise in water.

The dams don't look very deep though (apparently about 40 foot or 12m of normal water height from the base river elevation) - it takes up a lot of square area for not much depth of water which accounts for the small power generation plants that exist. That part of the country must have been very sparsely populated when they dammed the rivers.

All four of these seem to have been built in the 1920s by Boyce hydro power. Generating capacity is about 5MW on the edenville site apparently. It's no wonder that the plant lost money if this was their main income when also having to maintain / repair the dam, gates etc.

It's also a way of controlling peak water flows without having to create a massive single dam.

Remember - More details = better answers
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RE: 2 dam failures in MI

Quote (itsmoked)

Crazy that you have a dam, feeding a dam, feeding a damn! And, that if the first one craps-out it's automatically going to kill the next one, that's going to wipe-out the third one! It's insanity.
It is normal. You build damns not to fail. Failure should not be an option. You build them to safely release water in extreme weather events. The insanity is the politics that can allow a dam with known safety risks to continue operation for so long.

Here is the Shiawassee River the partner river, count the dams...
https://web.archive.org/web/20110827043034/http://...


Here is the colorado:





RE: 2 dam failures in MI

Strings of dams make lots of sense, when you wish to capture the potential energy change not captured by any single dam, particularly when a single dam can't possibly deal with higher potential energies.

Nevertheless, the fact that the dam's level is so high, even after failure of the dam suggests a water event exceeding its design parameters.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
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RE: 2 dam failures in MI

Here's that map showing the Shiawassee River and its system of dams (courtesy of human909):



Also note that, particularly in the southern part of the state, around Detroit and down near the Ohio border, many of these small dams, with power plants, were build by people like Henry Ford to supply power to the various small towns where he and other early auto manufacturers were moving some of the production of components and auto parts out away from the big cities.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

So if the state told them to raise water level that means that the state accepted the liability I guess.
In WI the state has seized some dams where owners wouldn't/couldn't do the maintenance.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
P.E. Metallurgy

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

Politicians accept liability? Good luck with that, that would be like them admitting they were ever wrong. Per the local media, the MI governor has said she intends to pursue legal action to seize the dams and sue the operator for the cost of damages. There is also conjecture as to whether/not it makes sense to spend the money to rebuild the dams or find better/cheaper means to control the two rivers. The primary purpose of these apparently was flood control, not power generation so safety might be a bigger factor than money. To be fair tho, there are many summer homes/cottages in the area for wealthy Detroiters.

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

The original purpose of the Edenville dam was power generation; not sure about the others. As people built homes along the lake it also became a source of property taxes and seen as a recreational use. I don't see evidence they had flood control as a main use; in fact it seems like they were known to be vulnerable to failing in this use as they had insufficient spillway capacity. One article suggests this has been a known issue for 20 years.

The reason it hasn't been adequately addressed seems to be a competition between moneyed land owners unhappy at losing their summer fun and their property values and a late participant, the Natural Resources Department, that wanted to keep fresh water mussels healthy by keeping the water levels up.

The people who really suffered from this are the ones downstream who had no direct economic connection to back any complaints.

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

The ones that WI has seized have usually been removed as parts of river renewal projects.
Property owners just have to suck it up, unless they really want to shoulder the costs of the project themselves.
There have been a couple of re-builds (The Dells) but those have been rare.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
P.E. Metallurgy

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

Mire like wixom river....

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

Actually it's the Tittabawassee River, and now it's back to what it was like a hundred years ago.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: 2 dam failures in MI

Interesting to see just how shallow a lot of the lake must have been. But now what?

Let the bare earth regenerate?

Fill the lake back in so that all the "lakeside" houses get their lake back?

for 5MW it isn't a commercial venture.

I wonder how the flood modelling works now without those dams.

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