The City of Gladewater got a closer look at voids, structural weaknesses and other issues with the Lake Gladewater Dam Wednesday.
In a joint effort by Gladewater Fire Department personnel and Schaumburg & Polk, the latest findings cement the broad assessment of the structure as high risk due to a number of known flaws and a laundry list of items to correct. Officials aren’t concerned about an imminent failure, but they do recommend locals plan for an unlikely worst-case scenario.
“City of Gladewater personnel are actively monitoring the dam and working with engineers to keep things safe until a solution is achieved,” GFD Fire Chief Mike Simmons said. “In the meantime, if you live south of the dam in the floodzones, we highly encourage you to sign up for our Genasys system. If any evacuation is needed it will be conducted through the Genasys system.
“Always have an evacuation plan ready – Where are you going to go? Who are you going to stay with? Have ways to keep in contact with your family so we can account for you.”
Learn more at cityofgladewater.com/genasys/
Wednesday’s dam close-up gave firefighters an opportunity to simultaneously drill their water rescue tactics as SPI engineer Andrew Wright joined the crew with a hardy camera ready to capture better images of the dam. Suited up for the chill water, the team carefully descended from the top of the dam’s earthen portion to shore level below the concrete spillway before leaping in.
“During last year’s annual inspection, the water was actually flowing over the dam. You couldn’t see the concrete structure itself,” Simmons said. “Once that water receded, we noticed there was a missing piece of concrete on the eastern side.
“Obviously, we knew we needed to get down to it and probe it this year. We discovered a fairly large void space that’s washed out behind it.”
Meanwhile, several of the spillway’s concrete panels have clearly sunk in, visible from a distance, indicating additional voids behind them. There’s also some healthy grass growth between the panels – plants couldn’t take root easily without voids filled with soil.
SPI is preparing an annual inspection report on the inspection and updated analysis of the dam’s condition. With that analysis in hand, authorities will refine their plans to mitigate the dam’s problems.
“Short-term is how we shore up the structure,” Simmons said. “Long-term is how do we get grants to improve the overall health of the dam.”
From the last inspection, without being able to see the extent of the damage to the concrete structure, the dam was officially rated in a ‘Fair’ condition with some decline.
“We’re pretty confident with the amount of wear and tear and the voids, it will be downgraded which will qualify us for funding.”
The city is eyeing a new federal grant program for high hazard dams – Lake Gladewater’s seems to qualify, especially after the Nov. 8 inspection.
A key element is how many people, homes, businesses and essential infrastructure are in the floodpath should the dam fail.
“Right now, we don’t have a ton of houses downstream, but this is also based off our old models,” Simmons noted. “(SPI) is now running new models based on our floodplains, so a lot of that can change.
“We’re going to push how much of our infrastructure would be effected – airport, fiber optic lines, rail, businesses and major highways / roadways.”