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Great Plains Region
Billings, Mont.
Media Contact:
Nancy Wilson
(308) 345-1043

Released On: September 04, 2012

Construction Continues at Red Willow Dam
MCCOOK, Neb. -- The Bureau of Reclamation announced today that construction activities related to extensive modifications at Red Willow Dam are progressing at an accelerated rate.

"The contract completion date for Red Willow Dam modifications is currently Nov. 27, 2013," said Aaron Thompson, Reclamation's Nebraska-Kansas Area Manager. "But both our agency and SEMA construction are doing everything possible to complete the contract as soon as possible so the public can fully enjoy the vast benefits of Red Willow Dam."

To date, SEMA Construction has excavated approximately 350,000 cubic yards of the downstream face of Red Willow Dam, including exposing a portion of the spillway conduit and the outlet works conduit. Reconstruction has commenced, including placement of a geonet/sand and gravel filtration system along the entire length of the dam.

The filtration system involves placing nearly 150,000 square yards of geonet and geotextile materials. Approximately 25 percent of the geonet has been placed, and is being systematically covered with layers of sand and gravel. Size requirements for the sands and gravel which make up the filter system are very specific. Due to the lack of suitable material on site, the contractor has been hauling sands and gravel materials from various other sites.

The original pipe drain at the downstream toe of the dam has also been removed and replaced with a horizontal drain consisting of a layer of gravel and a layer of sand. This filter and drainage system provides valuable protection against internal erosion of the dam embankment.

For safety and security reasons, access to the construction site and travel across the dam remains closed to the public during the construction period. The Nebraska-Kansas Area Office maintenance crew constructed an observation area at the southwest end of the dam and is accessible by county roads.

Reclamation crews in October 2009 discovered a sinkhole on the face of the dam. Subsequent investigations revealed embankment cracking, prompting Reclamation to lower Hugh Butler Lake, which is impounded by Red Willow Dam.

Red Willow Dam is an earthfill embankment with a structural height of 126 feet that, when in operation, forms a reservoir of 86,630 acre-feet. An ungated concrete spillway is located in the right abutment. An outlet works through the base of the dam provides for river and irrigation releases for downstream diversions.

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