Michael Anderson – KSL
LOGAN — In a space that could fill several average-sized garages, researchers at Utah State University can pump hundreds of gallons of water through a model dam.
“Quite often seeing is believing,” associate professor Blake Tullis said.
By building a dam, one-45th the size of the real thing, Tullis can watch for design flaws and make adjustments. A team with the Army Corps of Engineers is hoping researchers at USU can help them save a lot of money by running the small-scale model. The model took eight weeks and cost between $100,000 and $300,000 build.
“It turns into cost savings,” Tullis said, “savings in the prototype construction, because they can lower their factor of safety. They can actually know what they’re designing for instead of guessing.”
The structure is being designed as part of the project to replace the Lake Isabella Dam near Bakersfield, Calif. Engineers believe the current dam might not hold up to severe flood or earthquake conditions. Construction is set to begin in 2017. A proposed new design would build zig-zags into the walls, which then curve out into an arc.