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Dam Safety team preps for ‘rainy day’ at Taylorsville Lake

Published June 15, 2018
Even though it was a sunny day, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District representatives and local emergency management agencies gathered at the Taylorsville Lake Visitor’s Center May 16, to prepare for less ideal weather conditions and potential emergency situations, such as a dam failure.

The table top exercise allows all parties to run through different emergency scenarios from a minor spillway event to a complete dam failure to identify ways to better communicate and work efficiently in case of an event. 

“First off, the dam at Taylorsville Lake is very low risk, it’s in very good shape and functioning very well,” said Jeff Esterle, USACE Louisville District dam safety program manager. “It’s actually the youngest of all the dams in our Louisville District inventory—built in 1983.” 

The Corps wants to focus on preparation and coordination to have a risk informed dam safety program. The dam safety team leads similar exercises for each of our 20 flood risk management dams in the Louisville District’s inventory every two to five years. 
“In these meetings we can work with emergency managers and downstream stakeholders to coordinate and emphasize having a risk informed dam safety program,” said Esterle.

The exercise included walking through the Emergency Action Plan for Taylorsville Lake including three different mock scenarios—a spillway flow event, possible dam failure and an actual dam failure.

Working through the scenarios allows for discussion about communication across agencies, the public notification process, the emergency assistance request process, road closures and evacuation procedures. 

It also gives USACE a chance to confirm that emergency management agencies are aware of the correct processes—for example—how to request federal government assistance for pumps and sandbags. 

USACE can then identify any areas that may need improvement to smooth the process.

“The exercise is really intended to be low-stress,” Esterle told participants. “It’s an opportunity to talk through things and to go through ways we can improve our communication in a possible future event. It hopefully helps you and helps us prepare for future actions,” he said.

Participants found the exercise to be worthwhile in helping to avoid potential future issues. “It was very beneficial,” said Mike Driscoll, Taylorsville/Spencer County Levee Commission sponsor. “It brought up some scenarios to help us on the levee so it was a really good meeting for us.”

Another six table top exercises are scheduled in 2018 for dams in the district’s inventory.