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North Dakota Dam Hazard Classifications

Hazard classification review of 120 North Dakota dams with hydraulic modeling and GIS helps safeguard life and property.
  • North Dakota Dam Hazard Classifications – Gannett Fleming

    2-D hydraulic analysis aerial map of Beach Dam, North Dakota, with bridges and homes identified.

North Dakota State Water Commission

Statewide, North Dakota

Our Role
Hydraulic Modeling and Analysis, GIS.

120 dams
In Progress
  • Analyzed best dam safety resource allocation

  • Provided client with comprehensive and organized modeling and mapping data

  • Visualized dam breach effect on people and property with hydraulic model.

Using state-of-the-art modeling and analysis tools, Gannett Fleming reviewed the hazard classification of 120 North Dakota dams. Our efforts were essential to identify dams with the greatest potential downstream impacts to life and property and to effectively allocate limited dam safety resources.

Thanks to our accurate and reliable 2-D dam embankment breach model and geographic information system (GIS) screening tools, the North Dakota State Water Commission estimated the number of dwellings, railroad and road crossings, and other important infrastructure features that would be impacted by a catastrophic dam breach. We verified that each dam classification - low hazard, medium hazard, or high hazard - was consistent and current.

What We Did

Within the XPSWMM-2D dam embankment breach hydraulic model, reservoir storage was released dynamically through the breach opening and routed downstream. This technique is useful for areas with flat topography, as seen throughout North Dakota, where multi-directional flow patterns occur during dam breach and flow and velocity depth can vary spatially.

Gannett Fleming then selected approximate breach parameters for each North Dakota dam based on type and size of the dam. Using the estimated level of human impacts, we made recommendations for the hazard classification of each dam based on ACER 11 and FEMA 333 guidelines. We also prepared a database listing the hazard level corresponding to the breach of each dam using client guidelines and provided digital shapefiles of impacted structures corresponding to each breach. 

Key Features

  • 2-D hydraulic modeling for dynamic simulation of reservoir release

  • Dam hazard classification recommendations based on FEMA criteria

  • Digital shapefiles corresponding the breach to impacted structures.

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