Location

New York, New York

Session Start Date

4-13-2004

Session End Date

4-17-2004

Abstract

Teton Dam failed during its first filling on 5 June 1976. The 405-ft high dam was designed and built using modern standards; therefore its failure received considerable scrutiny from engineering experts. Failure mechanisms suggested, included hydraulic fracture, internal erosion, wet-seam theory, and defects in the abutment rock. None of the investigations, however, were able to explain satisfactorily why the dam breached when the reservoir reached EL.5301.7 ft and only in the vicinity of Sta. 14+00 on the right abutment. The investigation here is focused on this crucial aspect of the failure using the modern framework of fundamental “state based soil mechanics”. According to this framework highly compacted soils of low plasticity in an environment of low liquidity index and low confining stress would crack in the presence of high shear stresses. The impervious core (Zone-1) of Teton was constructed of uniform clayey silt of low plasticity and highly compacted and therefore was prone to such a possibility. This paper describes the details of the theory, the investigation, and the conclusions arrived at regarding the potential initiation of Teton failure. Finite element analysis carried out using state based parameters indicate the presence of deep open transverse vertical crack(s) in the core (Zone-1) to a maximum depth of about 32 ft from the crest only in the right abutment and in the vicinity of Sta. 14+00. We conclude that once the water level in the reservoir rose above El 5300.0 ft in the early hours of 5 June 1976 water flowed through the open vertical crack(s), which slowly eroded the crack into a large tunnel leading to the major breach of the dam hours later.

Department(s)

Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Appears In

International Conference on Case Histories in Geotechnical Engineering

Meeting Name

Fifth Conference

Publisher

University of Missouri--Rolla

Publication Date

4-13-2004

Document Version

Final Version

Rights

© 2004 University of Missouri--Rolla, All rights reserved.

Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

File Type

text

Language

English

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Apr 13th, 12:00 AM Apr 17th, 12:00 AM

The Failure of Teton Dam – A New Theory Based on "State Based Soil Mechanics"

New York, New York

Teton Dam failed during its first filling on 5 June 1976. The 405-ft high dam was designed and built using modern standards; therefore its failure received considerable scrutiny from engineering experts. Failure mechanisms suggested, included hydraulic fracture, internal erosion, wet-seam theory, and defects in the abutment rock. None of the investigations, however, were able to explain satisfactorily why the dam breached when the reservoir reached EL.5301.7 ft and only in the vicinity of Sta. 14+00 on the right abutment. The investigation here is focused on this crucial aspect of the failure using the modern framework of fundamental “state based soil mechanics”. According to this framework highly compacted soils of low plasticity in an environment of low liquidity index and low confining stress would crack in the presence of high shear stresses. The impervious core (Zone-1) of Teton was constructed of uniform clayey silt of low plasticity and highly compacted and therefore was prone to such a possibility. This paper describes the details of the theory, the investigation, and the conclusions arrived at regarding the potential initiation of Teton failure. Finite element analysis carried out using state based parameters indicate the presence of deep open transverse vertical crack(s) in the core (Zone-1) to a maximum depth of about 32 ft from the crest only in the right abutment and in the vicinity of Sta. 14+00. We conclude that once the water level in the reservoir rose above El 5300.0 ft in the early hours of 5 June 1976 water flowed through the open vertical crack(s), which slowly eroded the crack into a large tunnel leading to the major breach of the dam hours later.