Difficult Dam Problems - - Cofferdam Failure

by Harry E. Thomas, Chf. of Geology Sect.; Louisville Dist., Corps of Engineers, Louisville, Ky.,
John J. Speaker, Chf. of Structural Section; Design Branch, Louisville District, Corps of Engineers, Louisville, Ky.,
Eugene J. Miller, (M.ASCE), Chief; Soils Design Section, Louisville District, Corps of Engineers, Louisville, Ky.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1975, Vol. 45, Issue 8, Pg. 66-70

Document Type: Feature article


Uniontown Locks and Dam on the Ohio River was under construction when the cofferdam failed ten days after being dewatered during a rising river period. The configuration of the failure in the highly faulted shale foundation occurred as a block transition, sliding horizontally on a relatively soft underclay. There were no relief drains within the cofferdam nor piezometers to monitor uplift forces. Design for the pier foundation was changed from open cut founded on three shales to drilled caissons founded on the most competent of the three shales.

Subject Headings: Shale | Locks (dam) | Dam failures | Cofferdams | Rivers and streams | Landslides | Foundation design

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