Dam Removal Would Be Catastrophic
by Kirk MacKenzie, Defend Rural America 3/23/12
Mr. Stephen Koshy is a humble man, aged 77, who just happens to love our country and share our concerns over what is happening to it. He became aware of the plan to destroy four Klamath River dams, due in part to the publicity generated by Defend Rural America’s launch in Yreka, California on October 22nd. Having overseen the construction of four earth dams in his native country of India, Mr. Koshy became alarmed.
Government Ignored His Warnings
On November 18, 2011 Mr. Koshe wrote
Thomas Hepler of the Bureau of
Reclamation expressing his concerns:
“The ‘proposed action’ to remove the
Iron Gate and J.C. Boy earth dams, is
not safe or doable. ... Any attempt to
breach a dam, with its clay in such
condition, will be dangerous. The dam
will collapse catastrophically.”
“The fatal error of catastrophic
collapse, invalidates all those
Alternatives that involve earth dam
removal. ...The significant impact of
the earth dams’ catastrophic collapse,
can not be avoided or mitigated.
“The future of Salmon will be adversely
According to Mr. Koshy, it was this
letter that caused Interior Secretary
Ken Salazar to extend the public input
period on the EIS/EIR reports to the end
of December 2011. To insure his first
warning did not go unnoticed, Mr. Koshy
followed up with a second letter to
Thomas Hepler on December 21, 2011, this
time requesting his warning be
•California Governor Jerry Brown
•Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber
•Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
-His Special Advisor to Chief of Staff
•The Bureau of Reclamation’s:
-Deputy Commissioner Operations
-Directors for Operations, Technical Resources and Technical Services Center
-Engineering and Geo-technical Serivces Divisions and Group leader
There was no satisfactory response.
Instead, the Interior Department
continued onward toward what Dr. Paul
Houser has called a pre-determined
outcome to destroy the dams. The plan
was to be formally adopted by the end of
Reaches Out To The People
On March 23, 2012 Stephen Koshy mailed
his concerns to the Siskiyou County
Board of Supervisors, having discovered
their names from continued publicity
about the ongoing fight to save the
dams. To his earlier comments he added:
“It is a certainty [the proposed action
will cause the dam’s catastrophic
collapse]. It is not just a
Unexpectedly, as the end of March
neared, Secretary Ken Salazar
unexpectedly postponed his decision for
an indefinite period, leaving the
Catastrophic Consequences Explained
During my interview with him, Mr. Koshe
detailed what he meant by a catastrophic
collapse. Earthen dams consist of four
•A clay core to prevent water from seeping through the dam. When installed, the clay is relatively dry and hard, but over the years water seeps into the clay at a predictable rate and the clay becomes water-saturated. This gives clay the properties of a very viscous liquid, especially under high pressure.
•A lining around the clay core to prevent the clay particles from migrating.
•Sloping sides made of dirt and gravel to lock the clay core and lining in place.
•A cap at the top of the dam, above the clay, consisting of dirt, gravel, concrete, etc. This cap, say 20 feet thick for illustration purposes, covers the clay core and puts downward pressure on it.
This entire structure works somewhat
like a tube of toothpaste. The clay is
like the toothpaste, the liner the tube,
the sloped sides like hands squeezing
the tube, and the dam’s top like the
cap. The forces are terrific, but
opposing, so the clay stays put and the
dam remains intact. Indeed, the dam is
inspected four times a year and has been
determined to be in excellent condition.
If the top of the dam were to be
notched, however, as proposed by
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar,
Mr. Koshy states the integrity of the
dam would be compromised, resulting in
the dam’s ultimate collapse.
•The removal of a portion of the dam’s cap, say 5 feet for illustration purposes, is like unscrewing the cap on the toothpaste tube. There is no longer sufficient downward force to contain the clay.
•Part of the clay would squeeze upward, creating a void.
•The sides of the dam would collapse into this void.
•The top of the dam would slump downward, perhaps by as much as one-third of the dam’s height, say 50 feet for illustration purposes.
•The water inlets and outlets would be plugged. The reservoir’s water level would rapidly rise. Lowering the reservoir’s water level prior to deconstruction would only delay, but not stop, the consequences.
•The rising water would seep through the dam. The clay, no longer held in place by the liner since its integrity would have been breached, would flow away.
•Ultimately, the rising water would overflow the top of the dam.
•The velocity of the water flowing over and through the dam would accelerate as the dam erodes. The erosion would increase the volume and velocity of the escaping water, which would in turn erode the dam at an accelerating rate.
•The canyon walls would collapse. The earth’s crust in this volcanic region consists of layers of sediment separated by layers of volcanic ash, formed by millions of years of volcanic eruptions and tilted upward at an angle of 20 to 40 degrees due to volcanic pressures. Exposed faces were cut into these layers by the dam’s construction. The structure remains solid and stable in the presence of the dam, but becomes unstable without the opposing forces of the dam’s presence. The problems are compounded by fault lines in the region.
•The unconstrained reservoir waters would rush down river at velocities as high as 10 times normal, carrying with it rocks, boulders, and debris.
•Homes and communities would be destroyed. Lives could be lost.
•Salmon and other fish would be destroyed. If the destruction were to last for 3 years ― the reproductive cycle of salmon ― the salmon would be permanently destroyed unless restocked by salmon from another area.
•The high velocities would continue for a period of perhaps 2-3 years.
Government That Corrupt?
All of this
had to have been known within
government. The U.S. Army Corps. of
Engineers is the finest in the world.
•Why was the dam removal proposal not stopped early in the process?
•Failing that, why were these issues not addressed in the Environmental Impact Statement and Report?
•Have political agendas so taken over our government, that science and engineering have both been corrupted as individuals bow to the pressures created by those behind the scenes?
•Go along and get money, grants, and promotions? Speak out and get fired, like what happened to Dr. Paul Houser?
•Is our hard-earned money being used in a carrot-and-stick to feed an agenda that will ultimately destroy our economy?
There is a lot of explaining to do. But
the fault does not lie with Thomas
Hepler. The problems go to the top.