Federal Energy Regulatory Commission calls for increased review of spillways at high hazard dams

Posted in: Energy, Water


Draw down and cut off releases from the damaged spillway at Oroville Dam. (photo courtesy of Dale Kolke, California Department of Water Resources)

News sources across the country shared the story when a dam safety incident occurred at the Oroville Dam on February 7. Thankfully, the 770-foot-high dam did not fail and no lives were lost due to incident. However, nearly 200,000 people were impacted when the Emergency Action Plan was activated.

This recent event brought renewed attention within the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to the Potential Failure Modes associated with concrete spillways and unlined spillways. In April, the FERC issued a letter to licensees of significant and high hazard projects with similar spillways.

This letter calls for a detailed assessment of these structures by the end of 2017. The assessment must include:

  • Review of all available information related to the design, construction and inspection of the structures, including information related to the foundation and any monitoring performed
  • A close, visual inspection of the entire length of the structures
  • A focused Potential Failure Mode Analysis for the structures

We are working with several licensees to help them comply with this new initiative. As is often the case with new initiatives, we anticipate that there will be an early period where licensees, consultants and the FERC will collectively learn through active participation. We look forward to this process and the opportunity to share what we learn. In this spirit, we welcome feedback from others who are also going through this process.


Jeff Anderson, PE

About the Author

Jeff Anderson, P.E., works closely with clients to help them comply with ever-changing regulatory requirements. “By taking the time to understand each client’s unique needs, we can help them find innovative solutions to their problems.” In his free time, Jeff enjoys the challenges of raising two energetic children.

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