THE FLOATING BULKHEAD: A PRACTICAL, FLEXIBLE, AND
ECONOMICAL APPROACH TO DEWATERING GATES
By Christopher Goodwin, PE, and Todd Rudolph, PE | Ayres Associates
Many dams have some type of gate(s) to pass water, either for dewatering, normal river flows, or flood flows. Many of
these gates are over 50 years old and either need maintenance or periodic operation to verify they can be opened during
a high-flow event. If the dam spillway was not constructed with a stoplog system or other mechanism to separate the
gate from the impoundment, the owner’s choices include constructing a costly cofferdam or bulkhead system to dewater
the gate, or dewatering the entire reservoir, which is detrimental to any power-generation or irrigation role the dam may
play and may also pose environmental and recreational concerns.
In this paper we will describe the general principles behind the design and fabrication of a floating bulkhead, outlining
potential cost savings of a floating bulkhead versus traditional bulkhead, and providing varying case studies of spillway
configurations to demonstrate the various scenarios in which a floating bulkhead can be placed.