Ute Dam and Reservoir, Quay County, New Mexico

Ute Dam is a 132-foot-high earthen embankment dam on the Canadian River and is located 2 miles west of Logan, New Mexico.  The dam was constructed in 1963 for the purposes of recreation, municipal conservation, flood control, and raw water storage.  The primary dam features include a main dam embankment and dike embankment, separated by an emergency spillway structure; and an outlet works consisting of a concrete intake structure, outlet works conduit, and discharge structure.  The dam and spillway were substantially modified in 1984 to increase the storage capacity of the reservoir to 230,000 ac-ft.  The spillway modification consisted of constructing a 14-cycle labyrinth spillway to pass the 430,000 cfs spillway design flood. 

RJH was retained by the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) to provide engineering services for a wide-ranging Evaluation and Rehabilitation Program (Program) that included the following primary components:

  • Gaging Station – The Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System (ENMRWS) Project to be constructed in the future will withdraw water from Ute Reservoir and result in sustained lower reservoir levels, which will reduce seepage loses through the dam and impact downstream water users in Texas.  A gaging station downstream of the dam is required to measure seepage loses so the ISC can supplement lower seepage flows with increased outlet works releases to meet water rights requirements.  Key technical challenges included:
    • Designing the gaging station to provide a high degree of accuracy for low flow rates generally between about 1 to 2 cfs but to also withstand large spillway releases up to about 1,500 cfs without failure of the structure
    • Designing the relatively small flume component of the gaging station to pass Canadian River flows containing sediment and debris without clogging or requiring frequent cleaning and maintenance.
    • Installing the gaging station on a portion of the Canadian River that has historically experienced lateral shifting and at a location to reduce impacts to wetlands.
    • Designing a seepage cutoff system through the valley of the Canadian River Canyon upstream of the gaging station to direct seepage flows through the gaging station.

RJH evaluated numerous gaging station alternatives for technical and economic feasibility and based on these evaluations, developed a final design concept.  The innovative final design consisted of a USBR-type long-throated flume and 700-foot-long, 85-foot-wide diversion channel with 380-foot-long sheet pile cutoff wall.