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Construction of Earth Dam

P. Ghosh

Phases of Construction
Evaluation of plans, specifications, basic requirements, and features of the site Planning and scheduling of the job Making the site ready Building the structure Clean up

Phases of Construction
The first phase of evaluation consists of a detailed study of the requirements of design and of the site itself, including topography, weather and river flow, and of the problems of labour, materials, and equipment supply The second phase is most important if the job is to be done economically. The plant, labour, and materials for each stage of construction process must be available at the correct time; if they are too early there is unnecessary down time, while if too late the remaining schedule suffers
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Phases of Construction
Site readying includes developing access roads and the provision of the fixed construction plants such as ware houses, crushers, concrete mixers, offices and housing for the staff and workers The major part of the time and money is spent on the building phase
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Site Preparartion
It is the removal of tress, boulders, fences, buildings, and other structures from the area. This is for the borrowpits, and the area to be occupied by the dam

It is the removal of roots, stumps and organic matter. Scattered and isolated roots can be left, but stumps and matted roots should be removed.

Grubbing is done only in the actual borrow pits and within the outline of embankments

Site Preparation
It is the removal of all topsoil, organic materials and soft pockets which are unsuitable for the borrow in the borrow pit areas or unsuitable for supporting structure within the embankment outlines

It is the removal of loose materials, weathered rock and weak materials from the abutments. It also includes the shaping of abutments to eliminate overhangs and provide uniform slopes
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Diversion and Cofferdamming

Diversion is the re-routing of the river around the construction area. This is done with a temporary dam or cofferdam which walls off and protects the area, and a diversion channel or tunnel which carries the water around the site

Cofferdam fills:
Many types of cofferdams are used depending on the materials available and the river currents which flow past it

Diversion and Cofferdamming

The simplest is a fill of rock and earth dumped in place to form a crude dam, Fig. 1 The heart of this is a triangular mound of the coarsest material obtainable such as boulders and large broken rock

Fig. 1

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Diversion and Cofferdamming

This is dumped, starting from the abutments on both sides and working toward the centre of the cofferdam If it is constructed in a flowing stream, the rocks placed on the bottom must be coarse enough to resist being carried away by the water velocity As the centre of the stream is approached, larger rock must be used since the velocity increases as the flow is restricted The final closure is effected with very large rocks or even pre-cast blocks of concrete which are quickly dumped in the gap
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Diversion and Cofferdamming

Combined coffer-dam:
In some dams it is possible to utilize a rock toe of the permanent embankment as the rock core of the cofferdam and thus reduce the overall cost of the cofferdam (Fig. 2) Alternatively the rock toe can be made wider than normal to compensate for the poor foundation and placed directly on the un stripped ground

Fig. 2
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Diversion and Cofferdamming

Combined coffer-dam:
In dams with an upstream core it is frequently possible to use the upstream part of the dam itself as a second stage cofferdam to protect the remaining foundation area A small cofferdam, quickly built after the flood season is over, permits construction of the upstream part of the dam This becomes the cofferdam for the next flood season (Fig. 3)

Fig. 3
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Diversion and Cofferdamming

When the currents are swift and no coarse rock or boulders are available, cellular cofferdams of steel sheet piling are used, Fig. 4 Several patterns of cells are used depending on the height. The circular cells are the most stable since each cell is structurally independent of its neighbor

Fig. 4


Foundation Preparation
Cut-off trench:
The soil-filled trench is most widely used form of cutoff for earth dams on an earth foundation. It is also used for the earth dams on rock where the upper surface of the rock is weathered or cracked The construction procedure is employed is governed by the nature of the foundation material, and in particular by the ground water and the stable

excavation slope

Foundation Preparation
For greatest economy an open excavation is used. This is dewatered by pumping from sumps when the foundation is made up of rock, clayey soils, or gravels The sumps, which are merely collecting pits, should be dug just outside the trench line so that their pumping will not interfere with the surface preparation for the trench In silty soils and sands, sump pumping often creates an unstable condition including seepage erosion, sand boils, and quick sand. To avoid this water table must be lowered ahead of the excavation work so that excavation there is never an upward flow of water in to 14the

Foundation Preparation
This is best done by well points, Fig. 5, if the water table is to be lowered by 50ft or less

Fig. 5
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Foundation Preparation
Impervious contact:
The preparation of the contact between the cut-off (or core when no cut-off is used) and the impervious foundation requires careful hand work All loose materials and porous materials are removed. Pits and crevices are cleaned out as deep as possible Thin horns and over hanging projections are removed because they will interface with compaction and may break off under the action of heavy equipment
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Foundation Preparation
If foundation is rock, it can be cleaned cheaply by a combination of water-jetting and compressed air The small pits and cracks in rock must be filled with an impervious material that resists washing so that a zone of seepage will not develop along the contact Cement-sand mortar is best because it penetrates the cracks easily and then sets up as a solid A clay paste can be used for the same purpose in the smallest cracks
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Foundation Preparation
Shell foundation:
The foundation preparation beneath the shell is less critical. Seepage is not a factor and no crack sealing or pit filling is required All soft zones are removed and the embankment placed in layers on the virgin surface Scarifying and rolling the foundation is sometimes advocated, but it is an unnecessary expense when contact is not a problem
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Foundation Preparation
If the foundation is of a loose, cohesionless soil with a relative density of less than 70%, densification is desirable Certainly a blanket of dense material 25 to 30 ft thick is desirable to minimize the effects of any structural readjustments in a loose foundation Three methods have been used to densify existing deposits of cohesion less soil: a) pile driving, b) explosives, and c) vibrofloatation
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Grout is a fluid mixture of Portland cement, water and various admixtures such as sand, clay and rock dust, which hardens to form a semi-solid or solid mass that is impervious and which has some degree of rigidity and strength Clay grout is a viscous fluid mixture of clay and water, plus sand and other filters, which tends to stiffen slightly by the squeezing of water from the mix

Chemical grouts are fluid mixtures of various chemicals which solidify by chemical reaction after their injection The process of injecting any of these materials in to the ground is grouting Grouting is a complex process, an art in which the experience and judgment of the operator is the most important guide
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a) Make the formation impervious b) Improve its structural capabilities (strength, compressibility) This is done by filling cracks, fissures, cavities and even the voids between the grains with the grouting material In most earth or rock fill dams the stress concentrations are not sufficiently severe to require structural improvement; in masonry dams, however this is a major factor
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Consolidation grouting:
Consolidation grouting is the injection of a larger area of the foundation to shallow depth to reduce its compressibility, increase its strength, and particularly to minimize seepage in slightly fractured or weathered zone which is so often present in the uppermost few feet of rock In earth dams it is limited to the contact zone with the core or cut-off or to a limited portion of the contact if it is wide
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Curtain grouting:
It is the establishment of a cut-off wall by grouting The depth of the curtain is determined from a consideration of the seepage characteristics of the foundation When the fissure pattern is so erratic that no rational analysis is possible the depth in rock is often established by an empirical procedure such as: Depth = 0.5h to 1.5h or 0.33h + c where, h is the head on the foundation, c is a constant equal to 25 ft in sound rock and 75 ft in fissured rock
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Borrow Pit Excavation

Excavation of the embankment materials, processing them, and hauling them to the job are important from considerations of both cost and the quality of the materials delivered into the embankment

Excavation method:
The selection of excavation procedure depends on the type of available materials and on the configuration of borrow pits Five principal methods for handling the materials hand, power shovel, dragline, scraper and elevating grader

Borrow Pit Excavation

Hand excavation
It has been used throughout the history and is still important in areas where labour is cheap Most types of soils can be excavated; but coarse gravels, boulders, and even soft rock cannot be handled so efficiently

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Borrow Pit Excavation

Power shovel
It is well adapted to a wide variety of materials from soft soil to boulders and layered rock It is also suitable for hard rock that has been shattered by explosives Stratified materials are easily mixed since the shovel makes a vertical cut or slice

Borrow Pit Excavation

Drag line
It is adapted to most soils except soft sticky clays and very hard or cemented materials Stratified materials can be mixed or they can be segregated, depending on the mode of operation


Borrow Pit Excavation

It is most efficient in slightly clayey sands, silts, nonsticky clays and it can even function in some soft rocks Hard materials such as cemented soils and layered rock can frequently be broken up with a rooter (a giant hooked plough drawn by a tractor) and then excavated with the scraper

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Borrow Pit Excavation

Elevated grader
The working of an elevated grader is similar to that of a scraper so far as the handling of various types of materials is concerned It has, however, some tendency to provide more pulverizing than the scraper A long level borrow pit is required for best operation


Borrow Pit Excavation

Moisture control:
Moisture control is necessary in the borrow pit to permit efficient operation of the excavation equipment and to condition the soil for its future compaction Drainage is necessary for pits below ground water. This should be done far enough in advance of the construction so that the soil is not water logged Otherwise the soil must be stockpiled on higher ground to drain and then re-excavated for use in the embankment
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Borrow Pit Excavation

All pits should be so excavated that the surface water drains away from them and does not collect in them

Material control:
The operation of the borrow pit must be carefully controlled for better quality A testing laboratory is set up at the borrow pit where the moisture content, gradation, and even plasticity can be determined in minimum time
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Borrow Pit Excavation

In some cases modification or processing is necessary before the materials can be used The materials necessary for filters rarely occur in the correct gradation Even though natural sand-gravel mixtures are found which approximate the requirements, they are variable and should be screened to provide more exact control 33

Fill Placement
The placement of materials in the fill depends on the method of hauling, the processing which will be done in-place before compaction, and the size of the area to be filled The materials hauled by hand are dumped in small piles to form a reasonably level surface The materials hauled by trucks and wagons are dumped in uniformly spaced piles Certain side dump wagons can also form long narrow piles or wind-rows

Fill Placement

In-place processing:
All objectionable materials are removed during and immediately after the spreading operation

These include roots, clumps of grass and the other organic matter, and large stones which would interfere with compaction In some cases it is necessary to mix two materials. An examples in core construction when a limited amount of highly impervious clay can reduce the permeability of more abundant but less water-tight soils
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Fill Placement
If the materials are hauled by trucks or wagons they are placed in alternate piles or in parallel adjacent wind-rows

Moisture control:
moisture control is necessary when placing the soil, even though it may leave the borrow pit at the proper water content The soil can be dried by spreading it in layers and turning and aerating it in the sunshine
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Fill Placement
The pulverizing and mixing machines can help the drying because they beat air through the soil during the process Moisture addition is done by sprinkling water

followed by mixing with ploughs or the pulverizing mixers If possible, moisture addition should be done several hours before compaction, so that the soil will have time for absorbing water
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Soil Compaction
Compaction is the process by which the required density is obtained in an embankment Two different phenomena are involved in this process: 1. Movement of the particles into new positions 2. Distortion of the particles, particularly the flaky ones with their adsorbed layers, so that the voids between them become smaller

Soil Compaction

Compaction methods:
The oldest method of soil compaction is tamping. This provides pressure at the moment of impact and some vibration. Because of this dual action, tamping can be used on all types of soil, but best in clayey sands, sandy clays and similar soils of low (but not negligible) cohesion The hard tamper, a block of iron, stone, or wood weighing 6 to 10 lb., is the simplest. The compaction effort is small and so the soil must be compacted in thin layers, from 1 to 2 in.
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Soil Compaction
Pneumatic tampers, with the tamping part weighing about 6lb., are faster than the hand tampers but are only slightly more effective in producing 160 to high compaction Jumping





powered by gasoline, are more effective. These jump from 6 to 18 in. in to the air and then drop back by gravity to produce substantial impact pressure They are capable of compacting soils in layers of 6 to 12 in. thickness to densities of 100% of standard proctor maximum at optimum moisture
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Soil Compaction
The sheep foot roller consists of a steel drum with projecting lugs or feet. It applies high static pressures over a relatively small area: 1 to 9 sq. in. or an equivalent diameter of 3 to 3.5 in. Rollers with foot pressures as low as 150 psi and as high as 1,200 psi are available Because of high pressure and the small width of application the sheep foot roller is the best adapted to the highly cohesive soils like clays
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Soil Compaction
Low plasticity soils can be compacted with the sheep

foot rollers but lower pressures must be employed to

avoid a bearing capacity failure A modified sheep foot roller with wider feet, 6 to 8 in. across, is far more effective in silty soils

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Soil Compaction
The heavy pneumatic-tired roller consists of four large pneumatic tires, mounted side by side on a suspension system which permits them to move up and down independently These support a ballast box which exerts loads of 50 to 200 tons depending on the types of tires, the box sizes and the earth or rock ballast The pneumatic tired roller develops pressures of 80 to 150 psi over an area of 250 to 700 or equivalent diameters of 18 to 30 in
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Soil Compaction

It is very well adapted to cohesive soils of low plasticity, such as clayey sands and silts, and to cohesion less soils such as sands and gravels where the bearing capacity depends on width of the area of application

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Soil Compaction
Various forms of vibrating rollers are available. One is a two-wheeled rubber-tired roller with a gasolinepowered vibrator on the axis Another is smooth steel drum, ballasted with water, and with a vibrating unit in the supporting frame Both the types are effective in compacting cohesion less sands and gravels Layers from 12 to 18 in, thick can be compacted to 100% of the standard proctor maximum, often in one or two passes of the machine
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Soil Compaction

Ordinary pavement rollers with steel drum wheels can be used for soil compaction. They exert a moderate degree of pressure across a wide drum They can be used in most soils provided the layers are very thin. Their main disadvantages are The tendency of the drum to bridge over small soft pockets The formation of a very smooth surface
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Soil Compaction
Flooding of sands and puddling of clays are sometimes mentioned as compaction methods. While these are better than no compaction at all, the degree of compaction produced seldom exceeds 85% of the standard proctor maximum

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Soil Compaction
Fill operation:
The selection of the proper methods of compaction, the layer thickness, pressure of the equipment, and the best moisture is the joint responsibility of the designer and the constructor The most important factor is the pressure distribution in the layer being compacted. Based on Boussinesq equation, the pressure beneath the compaction

device decreases with depth

Soil Compaction
A high pressure applied over a small area decreases rapidly with increasing depth (as in a sheep foot roller); Fig. 6 The tendency is to produce better compaction on the surface of the compacted layer than at the bottom, if the layer is very thick

Fig. 6


Soil Compaction
The wide compaction device with a smaller surface pressure produces a more uniform pressure throughout the layer. This is the characteristic of rubber-tired roller The average pressure in a layer being compacted can be increased by increasing the surface pressure or by decreasing the layer thickness For earth dam cores, where uniformity is needed, the moisture should be kept as high as possible. For the shell where strength is most important, the moisture should be as low as possible

Soil Compaction
The surface pressure, however, is limited by the soil bearing capacity. Once that is exceeded, the soil compaction is less Before any part of the embankment is compacted a test strip should be set up where the best

equipment, moisture, layer thickness, and number of passes are determined by experiment A little money spent on this may well save much time, money and argument later
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Soil Compaction
Stage compaction:
The maximum pressure which can be exerted by the compaction equipment is limited by the soil bearing capacity. The uncompacted soil with its loose structure has very low bearing If heavy equipment is used in an attempt to compact this soil, a bearing capacity failure is likely. If, however, the soil is first partially compacted with the light equipment, the bearing strength will


increased sufficiently to permit the use of heavy equipment

Soil Compaction
Stage compaction:
Such stage compaction can be very effective in higly cohesive soils which require high pressures for compaction, and it is useful for all soils when very high degree of compaction are required

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