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Watershed Structure Inspection Reports

The revised Watershed Inspection Report is a more detailed and easy to follow tool for assessing the condition of NRCS Watershed Project Dams. The format of the form follows the guidelines found in the 2003 National Operation & Maintenance Manual and is a fillable form that may also be printed out and completed by hand. The following document requires Adobe Acrobat.

Watershed Structure Inspection Form, Revised June 2005

Frequently Asked Questions about the Revised Watershed Inspection Report

Why were the inspection forms changed? The forms have been updated to follow the suggested format found in the 2003 National Operation & Maintenance Manual. The revised form also resolved problems found on the old forms and provide enough space for comments.

What is a "formal" inspection?  A "formal" inspection is completed under the leadership of a qualified engineer (as determined by the State Conservation Engineer) at least once every five years.  The purpose of the inspection is to determine the structural integrity of the dam and appurtenant structures.  These inspections complement annual inspections conducted by the field office to determine if the structures are functioning as designed.

What types of "other" inspections are there? "Other" inspections are generally conducted following natural disasters such as earthquakes and major rain events such as hurricanes.

What is NRCS and Safe Dams Program Classification?  NRCS and Georgia Safe Dams Programs have separate and distinct hazard classification systems for dams. NRCS uses A, B, and C for low, significant, and high hazards respectively. Georgia Safe Dams Program categorizes dams as either Category I, high hazard, or Category II, low hazard.  Class C and Category I are generally synonymous, both meaning that failure of the dam would most likely result in the loss of life. For more information go to our eDirectives web page and clink on Manuals then 210 Engineering then National Engineering Manual (NEM), Part 520, Subpart C Dams or download Dam Safety Regulations from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division Website.

What is an Emergency Action Plan (EAP)? An EAP is a plan of action to be taken to reduce the potential for property damage and loss of life in an area affected by failure of a dam or other potentially hazardous practice. Preparing and implementing an EAP is the responsibility of the sponsor. NRCS will provide technical data and breach inundation maps as requested by the sponsor for the development of an EAP.

Why do I have to look downstream and how far should I look? The 2003 National O&M manual requires each state to periodically review the hazard classification of all low and significant structures. New construction downstream may be in the breach zone and could change the classification of the structure. The distance you look downstream will depend on factors such as the height of the dam and the topography of the floodplain. For further guidance contact your area engineer or download "Hazard Classification of NRCS Structures in Georgia" for rules of thumb on how far to look.

How do I identify cracks, settlement, or bulges in the embankment? Cracks, settlement, or bulges are signs of instability in the earth embankment. The easiest way to identify them is to stand on one end of the dam and sight along the crest. Shift your position looking for any irregularities in the top of dam elevation, upstream and downstream slopes, or waterline along the normal pool.

How do I identify seepage? Seepage is the passage of water through the embankment. All embankment dams have some amount of seepage. In NRCS structures the seepage is generally controlled, flowing through the toe drains. If toe drains become blocked then the seepage may become uncontrolled and travel through the embankment.  Uncontrolled seepage may appear as a wet area or as a flowing "spring." Lush vegetation is a common indicator. Uncontrolled seepage should be monitored for any sudden increase. Seepage becomes a problem when embankment or foundation materials are moved by the water flow. This type of problem seepage may be identified by sinkholes or boils.

What should I bring during an inspection? Here is a quick checklist. This list is not all inclusive.

  • Invite members of the sponsor organization
  • Inform landowners as required
  • Bring a digital cameral to document deficiencies
  • Bring something to clean the toe drains with
  • Bring the crank for the gate stem if you plan to operate the gate on the riser
  • Don't forget a key to the gate, pens or pencils, and a clipboard

When is the best time to do an inspection? It is generally best to do the inspection after several dry sunny days. This will allow surface water to dry so that you will not confuse standing water with seepage.  Inspection during winter months will decrease the odds of encountering snakes and increase visibility in areas with dense vegetation.

When should I contact an engineer about problems I encounter? Whenever you encounter an unsafe condition. Contact your area engineer if you encounter any cracks, settlement, or bulges in the embankment or if there is a sudden increase in seepage or signs that the seepage may be carrying embankment or foundation materials.