Piping in Earth Dams of Dispersive Clay (Paper introduced by Norman L. Ryker)

by James L. Sherard, U.S. Dep of Agriculture, Stillwater, United States,
Rey S. Decker, U.S. Dep of Agriculture, Stillwater, United States,
Norman L. Ryker, U.S. Dep of Agriculture, Stillwater, United States,

Part of: Embankment Dams: James L. Sherard Contributions


In 1971 Jim Sherard was engaged to investigate the common failure of a group of Soil Conservation Service (SCS) floodwater retarding earthfill dams built between 1957 and 1970, eleven being located in Oklahoma and three in Mississippi. These dams failed upon initial reservoir filling from internal erosion along cracks developed in compacted dispersive clays. The uniqueness of the natural dispersion and erodability of these otherwise intact plastic clays intrigued Dr. Sherard, leading him to further expand this investigative research at his own expense to include other earthfill projects known to him to have had similar problems. He therefore became involved with researching information from projects located in several other states and many foreign countries. In one parallel to the study, Jim unraveled some mystery involving a piping accident in the late 1940's with a large dam in eastern Oklahoma. While a small number of engineers in the United States and Australia were familiar with dispersive clays, it was not until Dr. Sherard happened upon the scene that the civil engineering profession became aware of the nature and identity of these problem soils. His presentations of the following two papers at the Purdue specialty conference in 1972 were the vehicles that brought this about. The paper 'Hydraulic Fracturing in Low Dams of Dispersive Clay' was awarded the Arthur M. Wellington prize by ASCE in 1973.

Subject Headings: Embankment dams | Dam failures | Earthfill dams | Soil water | Clays | Piping erosion | Material failures | Failure analysis


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