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Investigation of Dallas-Area Dam Shows Serious Trouble

An undated photo from Lewisville Lake Dam Control Station. The dam was engineered in 1927.
An undated photo from Lewisville Lake Dam Control Station. The dam was engineered in 1927.

From Texas Standard:

There is no doubt about it – America is in need of infrastructure repair. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ latest infrastructure  report card, U.S. infrastructure was given a D+ and the country’s crumbling levee and dam system was noted in particular.That danger is more apparent than ever for the over 400,000 people living downstream from the Lewisville Lake Dam in North Texas. Engineers are saying that dam is a ticking time bomb if nothing is to prevent its breach.

 

George Getschow, a  journalism professor at the University of North Texas, wrote about the  dam's upkeep in a special report for the Dallas Morning News.

Built in the 1950s, the Lewisville dam is suffering from stress like any infrastructure its age. Since 2005, the Army Corps of Engineering has taken a closer look at the dam and found some "hair-raising" problems.

"There was excessive seepage under the dam," he says. "They've known about the problems at the Lewisville dam for a long time."

What would happen if it were to fail?

"Heaven forbid – it would be like a tsunami," Getschow says. "It would unleash a 65-foot floodway that would smash everything in its path."

A breach would leave Dallas submerged in 50 feet of water and, according to the Army Corps of Engineers, inflict more damage on the city than Hurricane Katrina did on New Orleans.

“The Corps continues to say it’s not at risk of imminent failure,” he says. “They’re the engineers, I’m not. All I can tell you is what their internal studies have said. If I were living in that area, I would certainly be concerned.”

In response to the story, the cities of Lewisville and Carrollton issued press releases to residents with emergency contact information.

“All dams leak,” he says, “But the Lewisville dam is leaking uncontrollably…. Seepage is one of the biggest causes of dam failure in the country.”

The Corps has been “going full bore” to prevent a disaster from happening, Getschow says, but the May floods made the dam’s existing problems worse.

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