USDA Prepared To Repair Dams

Published online: Feb 07, 2000
The 50-acre USDA Agricultural Research Service Hydraulic Engineering Research Laboratory in Stillwater, OK, is prepared to play one of its greatest roles-assisting in the rehabilitation and revitalization of thousands of U.S. earthen dams.

Many of the 10,000 flood-control structures, which, among other things provide irrigation water, recreation, fish and wildlife habitats and groundwater recharge, will need repairs or modifications as they continue to age.

Over the next 10 years, more than 1,000 will need significant repairs and modifications, according to the ARS.

To rehabilitate these dams, the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service will rely on ARS's current research, expertise and the database amassed by scientists at the Stillwater, OK, laboratory over the past 60 years.

The two agencies are developing software to apply technologies to engineering problems-called SITES. This combines geology, hydrology, soil science and physics to predict the performance of spillways. It will also predict how an earthen spillway will perform and evaluates its potential for failure.