Historic Dam Rehab: Handle with Care

by John Prendergast, Assoc. Ed.; Civil Engineering Magazine, ASCE World Headquarters, 345 East 47th Street, New York City, NY.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1991, Vol. 61, Issue 10, Pg. 50-53

Document Type: Feature article


A growing number of dams across the U.S. are aging and in need of rehabilitation, but can they be brought up to current codes without compromising their historic integrity? Improved methods of analysis have led to increased probable-maximum-flood capacity requirements and larger factors of safety than dams constructed in earlier eras were designed to meet. Rehab efforts on older structures can also be complicated by sketchy or nonexistent as-constructed documents, which hamper field investigations and analysis. At the same time, the participation of historic-preservation groups in design approval adds yet another layer to what can already be a complicated process. Recent rehab projects—on a 120-year-old masonry dam in New York state; a World War I-vintage hydro plant in Tennessee; and two hollow-core, slab-and-buttress Ambursen dams—tell how engineers are balancing historic preservation with modern engineering standards.

Subject Headings: Historic sites | Dams | Rehabilitation | Historic preservation | Field tests | Standards and codes | Historic buildings | Aging (material) | United States | New York | Tennessee

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