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Flood hydrology and dam-breach hydraulic analyses of four reservoirs in the Black Hills, South Dakota

February 17, 2011

Extensive information about the construction of dams or potential downstream hazards in the event of a dam breach is not available for many small reservoirs within the Black Hills National Forest. In 2009, the U.S. Forest Service identified the need for reconnaissance-level dam-breach assessments for four of these reservoirs within the Black Hills National Forest (Iron Creek, Horsethief, Lakota, and Mitchell Lakes) with the potential to flood downstream structures. Flood hydrology and dam-breach hydraulic analyses for the four selected reservoirs were conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the U.S. Forest service to estimate the areal extent of downstream inundation. Three high-flow breach scenarios were considered for cases when the dam is in place (overtopped) and when a dam break (failure) occurs: the 100-year recurrence 24-hour precipitation, 500-year recurrence peak flow, and the probable maximum precipitation. Inundation maps were developed that show the estimated extent of downstream floodwaters from simulated scenarios. Simulation results were used to determine the hazard classification of a dam break (high, significant, or low), based primarily on the potential for loss of life or property damage resulting from downstream inundation because of the flood surge.

The inflow design floods resulting from the two simulated storm events (100-year 24-hour and probable maximum precipitation) were determined using the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Hydrologic Engineering Center Hydrologic Modeling System (HEC-HMS). The inflow design flood for the 500-year recurrence peak flow was determined by using regional regression equations developed for streamflow-gaging stations with similar watershed characteristics. The step-backwater hydraulic analysis model, Hydrologic Engineering Center's River Analysis System (HEC-RAS), was used to determine water-surface profiles of in-place and dam-break scenarios for the three inflow design floods that were simulated. Inundation maps for in-place and dam-break scenarios were developed for the area downstream from the dam to the mouth of each stream.

Dam-break scenarios for three of the four reservoirs assessed in this study were rated as low hazards owing to absence of permanent structures downstream from the dams. Iron Creek Lake's downstream channel to its mouth does not include any permanent structures within the inundation flood plains. For the two reservoirs with the largest watershed areas, Lakota and Mitchell Lake, the additional floodwater surge resulting from a dam break would be minor relative to the magnitude of the large flood streamflow into the reservoirs, based on the similar areal extent of inundation for the in-place and dam-break scenarios as indicated by the developed maps. A dam-break scenario at Horsethief Lake is rated as a significant hazard because of potential lives-in-jeopardy in downstream dwellings and appreciable economic loss.