TRINIDAD — “A once in a lifetime” project is underway at the Trinidad Dam, said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) at a recent informational meeting. Drilling of any sort rarely occurs on a dam, so staff in the Trinidad and Albuquerque District offices are excited to be involved with the “Trinidad Lake Instrumentation Replacement Project.” The first on-site phase – drilling for soil samples to evaluate factors such as composition, moisture content and plasticity – is in progress at four locations on the earthen dam, which was constructed in 1978. A crew from the Savannah (GA) District is using a sonic drill, which does not produce vibrations, to safely pull core samples from as deep as 220 feet. The project began in 2011 when engineers conducted a comprehensive evaluation that included reviewing historical data and inspecting pipes with a down-hole camera. The inspection revealed several breaks. They could not determine why the pipes broke, but factors could include construction flaws, natural settling and seismic activity. Because the dam is rated “high hazard” due to people living immediately downstream, they submitted funding requests. Albuquerque District Senior Geologist Suzi Hess-Brittelle and Dam Safety Manager Dennis Garcia said the project involves installing instruments near the
broken pipes, which cannot be replaced. The new devices will monitor “structural behavior and performance parameters” such as water pressure, incline ratios, and seismic activity to insure the dam continues to perform well. “The USACE is responsible for investigating, developing and maintaining the nation’s water and related environmental resources,” states the website www.usace.army.mil. The Albuquerque staff oversees the Trinidad Dam, John Martin Reservoir Dam near La Junta, Colorado and seven dams in New Mexico. Trinidad Operations Manager Traci Robb and her staff welcome visitors to a free exhibit about the dam and are happy to answer questions. The office and exhibit, located on the dam near Highway 12, are open Monday-Friday, 7 am-4 pm. For more information, call 719-846-7990.