Teton Dam Failure


Karl Terzaghi

Arthur Casagrande

Piping failure on the right abutment of Fontenelle Dam
resulting from seepage along ungrouted valley-side joints.
Soil mechanics pioneers Karl Terzaghi and Arthur Casagrande spent much of their careers espousing the potential pitfalls of hydraulic piping through dam
foundations.  Terzaghi maintained that grout curtains should never be assumed to be 100% effective.  Casagrande asserted that no less than three rows of
grout curtains should be employed beneath dams, with proper testing of the grout take.  Fontenelle Dam was constructed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
on the Green River in Wyoming.  During its initial filling in 1965 it suffered a near catastrophic failure via hydraulic piping through the right abutment, the
same failure mechanism that doomed Teton Dam 11 years later.

-Background On Failure of Teton Dam
Near Rexburg, ID, June 5, 1976

(.PDF of 30 Slide PowerPoint Presentation - 5 MB)

Failure of the Teton Dam near Rexburg, Idaho on Saturday June 6, 1976.
At 350 feet, this is the highest dam that has ever failed.  The cost of the
damage was just about $1 billion.

-Retrospective On The Failure of Teton Dam
Near Rexburg, ID, June 5, 1976

(.PDF of 51 Slide PowerPoint Presentation - 27 MB)

Ririe Dam was built by the U.S. Corps of Engineers on near identical geology in the
next adjacent watershed to Teton Dam, at the same time Teton was constructed.   It
has never experienced the seepage problems that caused Teton Dam's untimely
demise.   Find out why in the presentation "Could a Safe Dam Have Been Constructed
At the Teton Dam Site?"

-Could A Safe Dam Have Been Constructed At The Teton Dam Site?
Ririe - The Teton Dam That Did Not Fail

(.PDF of 9 Slide PowerPoint Presentation - 2.5 MB)

Questions or comments on this page?
E-mail Dr. J David Rogers at rogersda@mst.edu.

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