Tuttle Creek Dam Failure Warning System
Manhattan, Kansas

Designed to automatically detect dam failure or incipient failure following an earthquake, the system automatically activates the downstream siren warning system.

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Project Details

Working closely with USACE – Kansas City District, URS designed a Dam Failure Warning System for the Tuttle Creek Dam in Manhattan, Kansas.

The system provided early warning of earthquake-induced dam failure. URS performed all of the analysis and design work, prepared all design drawings, and provided specifications. The design consists of a monitoring system to detect earthquake seismic activity, embankment / foundation deformation, and major changes in embankment / foundation pore pressures. The principal components of the design package include:

  • Digital strong motion accelerographs
  • Geotechnical Instrumentation / Automated Data Acquisition System (ADAS)
  • Video Surveillance System coupled with LED Embankment Alignment Indicators
  • Siren Warning System
  • Evacuation Plan
  • Community Outreach / Public Education Plan

The system wasdesigned to automatically detect dam failure or incipient dam failure and to automatically activate the siren warning system for the downstream population. In addition to the accelerographs, the instrument network includes piezometers (vibrating wire and strain gage), in-place inclinometers, Time Domain Reflectometry (TDR) cables to detect toe deformation, and a dam crest integrity monitor to detect crest subsidence.

Trigger levels to activate the siren warning system (i.e., the siren activation alarm logic) are based on seismic analyses performed by USACE and their consultants. The system was capable of detecting and reporting the following post-earthquake conditions detailed in USACE’s Emergency Action Plan:

  • Non-Emergency
  • Non-Failure Emergency – Inspection Required
  • Damage Detected – Could Lead to Failure
  • Failure Imminent or Has Occurred


USACE Kansas City District


Manhattan, Kansas


Design of Dam Failure Warning System
Prepare USACE Plans & Specifications
Evaluated Alternatives and Developed Unique Instrumentation Solutions for Detection of Earthquake-Induced Dam Failure
Integrate WinIDP/WebIDP
Develop ADAS Technical Specifications
Installed ADAS and Video Surveilance System
Provided O & M Services for 5 Years
Decommissioned ADAS Following Project Completion