Clearwater Dam Investigation

Clearwater Dam Investigation
By: Jason Lindsey
REYNOLDS COUNTY, Mo. -- It's on the minds of many who live down stream from Clearwater Dam in Reynolds County.  They're afraid the dam will break sending a wall of water right for their home.
In 2003 a sink hole formed on the dam putting some on edge and since then many of you have called and emailed KFVS for answers.
Heartland News obtained the periodic inspection reports by the Corps of Engineers dating back to 1972.  These reports indicate the Corps has kept a close eye on Clearwater Dam for more than three decades, worried the earthen dam could burst much like the Taum Sauk reservoir did in December 2005.
According to project manager Mark Brightwell, Clearwater Dam was built in the late 40's and has always had a problem with what's called seepage.
"Overtime, it is just recognized that if seepage were to continue to occur that it could become a safety issue with the dam."
Periodic inspection reports from the Corps of Engineers dating back to the late 70's talk about the seepage problem.  For example, on October 18th 1977, "...some members of the team indicated that the safety of the embankment during high upper pool would be questionable."
On October 15th, 1987 again, the seepage was noted, " evidence was found, other than the seepage problem at Clearwater Dam, of any condition that would affect the structural safety of the dam. Construction of the planned seepage control berm and right abutment grouting is necessary to ensure the continued structural safety of Clearwater Dam."
12 years later, "...the SWL Dam Safety Committee recommended a study to evaluate the seepage problem at high lake levels." 
So what took so long to fix the problem?  According to Brightwell, the Corps of Engineers has constructed various measures since the early 70's to address the seepage under the dam.
"There have been under drains, drainage systems that have been constructed to capture the seepage and drain it out down stream."
But all of this work still hasn't stopped the well documented seepage problem at Clearwater.  The sinkhole that formed on the dam in January of 2003 launched a multi million dollar project to end this problem once and for all. 
Blackwell says, "The project that has been approved and is currently underway will result in a concrete wall, a cut off wall being constructed through the embankment of the dam and into the rock underlining the dam to create a barrier to seepage or to some depth."
This project could take an estimated five years to complete and according to Blackwell it's really impossible to definitely say Clearwater Dam would break or would not break in those five years.
For now, the project continues and the Corps of Engineers closely watches the dam for possible failure.
"I think the folks down stream should be assured that the corps of engineers has implemented a project to protect the dam and to protect their safety and to ensure that the dam does not break."
Source: Corps of Engineers and Clearwater Lake