Saluda Dam


A massive dam project

When updating a historical marvel, nothing less than another remarkable feat of engineering will do. When it was built in the late 1920s, the Saluda Dam was the largest earthen dam in the world, creating the world’s largest man-made lake, the 78-square-mile Lake Murray.

Meanwhile, another piece of history was being studied in relation to the dam. Studies indicated that a potential repeat of the Charleston Earthquake, which rocked the area in 1886, would cause the dam to liquefy, flooding a large portion of the area around Columbia, South Carolina. The challenge then became to build a concrete backup dam to prevent any such calamity. Building such a structure without lowering the water level of the lake or disrupting the operation of the dam’s hydroelectric plant would result in several innovations in engineering and construction.

Numerous wells were drilled in the existing dam to lower the groundwater and improve excavation slope stability. This dewatering effort included 94 deep wells and 824 educator wells. A rock quarry was designed to utilize available gneiss rock formations. Approximately 200 million pounds of waste fly ash from the nearby coal-fired steam plant were recycled into concrete for the new dam. And, based on innovative methods developed for this site, 18,590 cubic yards of roller-compacted concrete were placed in a single day—a North American record.

The Saluda Dam Remediation Project has been honored with the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) 2006 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award.