The St. Francis Dam Collapse And Its Impact On The Construction Of The Hoover Dam

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This thesis will examine the construction of the St. Francis Dam, which collapsed within two years of its completion in the late 1920s, and its effect on the subsequent successful completion of the Hoover Dam from a Project Management perspective. Both dams were arch-gravity dams built in similar southwestern climates; this paper will attempt to illustrate why the St. Francis Dam collapsed while the Hoover Dam still stands today as one of the greatest civil engineering projects of the 20th Century.

The prevailing theory, based on findings shortly after the St. Francis Dam collapsed, was that the Dam's failure was totally due to the composition of the canyon walls. This thesis will establish a basis for the theory that in addition to unsuitable abutment walls, the failure of the Dam was also due to Project Management related errors. This thesis will show that the content of the concrete and the method in which it was poured caused it to crack, leak, and ultimately collapse when the side walls disintegrated allowing all the water in the reservoir to be released at once.