Old dam threatens town - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Old dam threatens town

By Lakecia Shockley - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

GLADEWATER, TX (KLTV) - The number of hazardous dams in the U.S. has shot up over the last five years. According to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials, in 2003, there were a little over 500 hazardous dams needing repair.

Lake Gladewater is beautiful but it's 57-year-old dam and spillway are getting engineers attention.

"It's 50 to 60 years old and that's about the life span of concrete," explained Todd Estes, a hydrologist and professional engineer for ADAMS engineers. "So we're seeing from the spillway what we would expect to see at it's age. The concrete portion of the dam, which is the principal spillway, that's where we saw a problem."

Gladewater hired Estes to make sure its dam and spillway are up to state specifications. What he found was that the spillway had several leaks.

"Over time that material just erodes and it decays and it's gone," explained Estes. "[The] majority of the joints in this concrete spillway have gone away. They've decayed over time."

So, how much water is leaking out?

"It's enough water that it's making us concerned that something needs to be done sooner rather than later," said Estes. "We'd hate to see something not done to the principal spillway today and it fail tomorrow - now their without water."

That's because Lake Gladewater is the city's main source of water, and Gladewater Emergency Management Coordinator Chief Wayne Smith said the city is taking action.

"We've developed an emergency action plan," said Smith. "That's one of the requirements that TCQ requires you to have. We've done that. The council has already told them to react on it. This is not a waiting deal."

If the dam and spillway give way, homes, schools, and train tracks would be demolished, but Lake Gladewater resident Brent Abernathy felt confident the city will fix the problem.

"I don't feel threatened at all," said Abernathy. "I have the utmost confidence in the city council."

But he also recognizes what havoc it could bring.

"You're talking about proximately a 900 acre lake [with] water releasing," said Abernathy. "I don't think there's any question that it would affect Gaye Avenue and Highway 80."

Gladewater says they are planning on putting up a hanging concrete wall that would fix the problem temporarily until they can replace the spillway. The concrete wall would cost between $75,000 and $100,000. Replacing the spillway is going to cost millions.

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