Clark Mountain Musings

Monday, December 19, 2005

Failure of Taum Sauk Dam Causes Major Flooding

From the Wayne County Journal Banner

Black River reached flood stage Tuesday morning after the Upper Taum Sauk dam failed. According to authorities, there have been no reports of casualities.The upper Taum Sauk dam is part of a pumped-storage hydroelectric plant owned by AmerenUE. According to a press release from the company, the plant's 1.5-billion-gallon upper reservoir appears to have a rupture in the northwest corner, causing water to flow downward and resulting in the closing of Route N in Reynolds County.

The 300-acre lower reservoir is slightly higher than its normal level but is intact.According to the National Weather Service in St. Louis, the dam failure occured at about 5:30 a.m. Johnson Shut-ins was flooded. Officials reported that at least one home was washed away. A tractor-trailer was washed away off Highway N in Reynolds County. Several cars were swept off the road.It was predicted that Black River at Highway K near Annapolis would crest at 20 feet, 12 feet over flood stage. The rise never occurred.

At this point, it appears that there was no failure of equipment used to move water upward or any evidence of foul play, according to AmerenUE."We have implemented our emergency flooding plan and local authorities have been notified. A number of AmerenUE engineers and specialists are investigating the incident; clearly, public safety is our top concern," said plant superintendent Rick Cooper. "We have nothing yet to report on the extent of the damage or on any impact on nearby homes or the welfare of local residents."Built in 1963, AmerenUE's Taum Sauk is a "pumped-storage" hydroelectric plant.

It stores water from the Black River in the upper reservoir, built atop 1,590-foot-high Proffit Mountain and releases the water to generate electricity when power is needed. The water flows down a mile-long tunnel inside the mountain, turning turbine-generators to produce electricity. When power demand is low, the same turbines run in reverse to pump water back to the upper reservoir.People living along Funk Branch and near Highway K were evacuated in the Annapolis community.

People living along Black River north of Clearwater Lake were also advised to move to higher ground."In Annapolis, everything is OK," said Mayor Ernest Sutton. "The flooding was expected to along Black River and in low-lying places. Our city shouldn't have any problems.""We're expecting a minimal rise at Clearwater Lake," said David Johnston. "Our hydrology department is projecting that the lake will reach 500.3 feet. Two weeks ago, the rain we had caused a 12-foot rise in the lake level. We're in good shape and ready for the water. The lake level is at winter pool level of 494 feet."


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