Inspection Results In On What Caused East Texas Dam To Break

Nearly 10 billion gallons, and more than 350 acres of water broke through the spillway of the dam at Rhines Lake.  Today, the lake is nothing more than a puddle.  "Everything's back to normal," said Ben Riley, the owner of the spillway property.  "We just don't have any water in the lake anymore, just a hole in the dam."

Riley bought the spillway property in 2001.  He said he looks forward to bringing the lake back.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's inspection shows the failure was apparently caused by piping in the dam:  seepage and leaks had been occurring for a while, small trees and brush were found along the slope of the dam and in the joints, and there were also erosions in the concrete.

Similar findings were noted the last time the dam was inspected, and the dam was found to be in "fair to good" condition back in 1984.

"When an inspection is done, they assess risk, and the higher the risk, the more frequent an inspection would occur," said Ross Morgan with the regional TCEQ office in Tyler.  "In their previous inspection, they considered it low risk."

TCEQ reports there are more than 400 public and private dams in East Texas, most of which are rated as "low risk."

"When they consider risk, they're talking about downstream," said Morgan.  He said assessing  risk is contingent upon homes, life, and property which may be located downstream from a dam--things which could be threatened if a breach were to occur.

And damage is what Riley hopes he never has to see again on his lake, once it's back up and running.

Morgan said if there is a problem with a local dam, contact the regional TCEQ office in Tyler.  If the information they gather warrants an inspection, inspectors from Austin will then be notified.

Layron Livingston, Reporting