The Hettinger County Water Resource Board hired Barr in 2016 to improve safety at Karey Dam in western North Dakota. Over time, this historic community asset and recreational destination had become a dangerous liability that posed drowning risks.
Barr’s solution involved removing the existing low-head dam and replacing it with a series of engineered rock riffles. A detailed assessment of flow conditions helped confirm that the project would not worsen the downstream scour hole post-construction and consequently undermine the dam’s structural integrity. Our approach significantly reduced the safety risks posed by the deteriorating structure and eliminated the development of deadly recirculating currents, thanks to the distributed energy loss between each rock arch.
Constructed in fall 2020, Karey Dam is now the first rock riffle structure in the western part of the state. Barr’s innovative solution improved dam safety while also providing benefits such as river connectivity and aquatic organism passage. In addition, the design enabled continued water storage in the upstream pool and has minimal impact on water-surface elevations and structures upstream of the site.
Without Barr’s assistance with identifying funding sources, this project would not have been possible for Hettinger County, a sparsely populated area with fewer than 2,600 residents. Through a comprehensive stakeholder engagement process, Barr helped secure 95 percent of the project’s funding from local, state, and federal agencies, resulting in a local cost share of less than 6 percent. Prior to the project, the community risked losing an important recreational area. With safety no longer a concern, future generations can enjoy the improved dam for years to come.