By Ronnie Schelby, USACE, Albuquerque District Public AffairsDecember 3, 2012
The first Operation Condition Assessment (OCA) in the South Pacific Division (SPD) took place the week of Oct. 8 at the Corps' Cochiti Dam project, located about 50 miles north of Albuquerque.
A regional team led by District Project Manager Stephen Thomas in Operations Division conducted the assessment along with representatives from headquarters, SPD, and Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco districts.
"The purpose of an OCA is to establish the baseline condition of all of the dam's components to develop estimates of risk that will inform decision makers who are prioritizing maintenance needs," Thomas said.
"Participants determine the criticality of each component with respect to operations and the economic impact to the Corps or customers if the component were to fail. Essentially, the assessment generates a record of how each component is holding up over time and how often it needs to be replaced."
Cochiti Dam was selected because it received a Dam Safety Action Classification rating of 4, which means the dam is in good condition, and because it is essential protection for people in Albuquerque and the surrounding area.
"The key words are 'Operational Condition,' as the intent of the assessments is to identify all deficiencies which currently affect the project's ability to meet its mission requirements, like flood risk management, water quality, water supply, hydropower, recreation, and natural and cultural resources," Thomas said.
Thomas added that the assessment was completed using a three-prong approach: a comprehensive documentation review, face‐to-face interaction with project staff, and an onsite observation of all component conditions.
"One of the major benefits of completing the assessment was identifying all of the major components of the dam and noting them in a central database, which can be accessed by all of the districts and lake personnel who are focusing on maintenance efforts," said Stu Townsley, a member of the Corps' National Project Development Team.
At Cochiti, the division team deployed to inspect each area while another team performed a yearly dam inspection. The various areas inspected were: dam embankment, intake works, discharge works, service and emergency gates, bulkhead, buildings, project lighting, electrical power systems, hydraulic power, project utilities, crane and hoist, and monitoring systems.
The status of each dam component was decided and recorded by a hand-held database tool developed specifically for the assessment. This tool was originally developed for inland navigation and then adjusted to meet the needs of the OCA team.
"The guesswork of rating each component was taken out of the equation through use of a chart called the Condition Rating Flow Chart for Flood Control Dams," Thomas said. "This chart, available on the hand-held tool, walked the participants through a series of questions which assisted in providing the rating of each component."
The results of the assessment coordinate conditions of assets to money needed in the Corps' budget and provide a central database for all inventory information.
"The Operational Conditional Assessments represent a portion of the overall Corps of Engineers Asset Management program," Townsley said. "When the assessment is tied to a risk, we can use the information to better allocate the limited operations and maintenance funds to the highest needs nationally.
"So, as part of the National Project Development Team, I appreciate the Albuquerque District's support in conducting the first regional OCA at Cochiti Dam."