Saturday, June 8, 2019

"Dam of Death": Book Two: The Will Austin Adventure Series

The Will Austin Adventure Series
Book Two: "Dam of Death"

Boston 1888. Sheriff Will Austin, now retired, finds himself back home. 

In his long absence, Will discovers that key family members, including his Aunt Hannah, have passed away while he was in Texas and Mexico. The family’s longtime general store is at risk of being sold because the younger family members have started to move away to attend school and find jobs in other cities, leaving Will to determine the future of the family in their native city. 

Will also begins work with a doctor in New York City who is a pioneer in the Movement-Cure field, and helps Will to regain some use of his limp right arm and restore him back to health. 

Elizabeth remains at Roma Arroyo, tending to all the duties of being the head of a large, expansive ranch and guest house. Their reputation of breeding and raising strong and fast horses spreads far and wide as Pilar becomes an accomplished rider, trainer and breeder, entering their horses and winning in numerous races in Northern Mexico, Southern Texas, New Orleans and eventually to the first ever established racetrack in Mexico in Tijuana!

While back in Mexico, Will accidentally stumbles upon the mystery of an unsolved mass murder of a local farming family, with only a sole survivor, the son who has not spoken for over twenty years!

Through the word of a guest, Elizabeth learns of the building of a massive dam downstream, close to the Mexican border, on the San Gabriel River, which runs through her ranch. The water that accumulates behind it would flood the entire property, over 500 acres, which has been in her husband’s family for several generations! 

Where will they run to as the water quickly covers their land and buildings and everything they know in its destructive and deadly path?

"Dam of Death:" Horse Racing in San Francisco! 1851 to 1905

Pioneer and Union Race Courses
(1851 or 1852 to 1863)

In 1852 the Pioneer Race Track opened on the site bounded by Mission, Bryant, 24th, and Army Streets.”

"March 24, 1851 - Spring racing season opens at Pioneer"

"At the time it was laid out, there were no streets in the neighborhood, but from a map published in 1864, it would appear to have been bound roughly by what is now 24th (formerly Park) and 26th  Streets (formerly Navy) and Capp and Alabama." 

"The course of the Union Race Track can be found just south of the Mission and farther south (beyond this section of the map) was the Pioneer Race Track. The tracks were built here because of a shared conviction that horses ran faster on a wet, springy turf. In 1850, between Twentieth and Twenty-fourth streets, Mr. A.A. Greene built the first regulation track. San Francisco’s racetracks were described as “probably not surpassed by any in the world, where especially on Sunday. . . the most celebrated of the fleet steeds of California are matched against each other to the delight of the multitude.”69 By 1852, horses were being brought in from Australia to race California horses on these fast tracks."

“George and John Treat, U.S. army veterans from Maine, landed in San Francisco in 1849 and settled in a remote corner of the southeastern Mission valley, where they lived for many years. As early as 1850 (according to his testimony at a land title appeal hearing in 1865), George Treat built a fence along an old stone wall originally erected by mission neophytes, and thus controlled the Potrero Nuevo tract, including much of the eastern portion of today’s Mission District and Potrero Hill. The Treat brothers grew commercial foodstuffs, raised cattle, and speculated in real estate; they owned very large tracts of land in the Mission District and in the Outside Lands (the Inner Sunset District). George Treat, an ardent Abolitionist and member of the First Committee of Vigilance of San Francisco, also engaged in Western mining enterprises and became a powerful local businessman. A racing aficionado, he built and ran the Pioneer Race Track (the first in San Francisco) in the southern Mission valley in the 1850s. At the end of the decade, George Treat sold the racetrack for residential development, and he likely engineered the passage of the San Francisco‐San Jose Railroad through the land. His brother, farmer John Treat, apparently lived in the house that stands today at 1266‐1268 Hampshire Street between 24th and 25th Streets in the southeastern Mission from at least the late 1860s (and possibly as early as the 1850s) until the late 19th century.”

The houses are located on the site of the former race track, which changed its name, ownership, and configuration over its 12 years of existence. Opened in 1851 as the Pavilion Race Course, it was re-named the Union Race Course, and by the time it closed in 1863, it was known as the Willows Trotting Course. The angled, pear-shaped race track occupied an off-grid space spanning roughly from what is now the corner of 19th and South Van Ness to 22nd and Harrison streets.”

Bay View Race Track
(1864 to 1882)

"When the Bayview was the working-class neighborhood of South San Francisco, the area was made accessible by the Long Bridge, a wooden structure that crossed Mission Bay in 1865. The bridge stretched all the way down to the Victorian ornate Bay View Race Track and Park. Nevada City mining millionaire George Hearst (yeah, those Hearsts) funded the construction, complete with a very fancy hotel.

At the time, horseracing was a very popular (and profitable) San Francisco weekend activityThe soggy marshland provided an ideal spot for the track, as it was thought to be good conditions for the horses. The track was built at the end of the Potrero & Bay View Railroad (now Third Street). Folk rode the Potrero and Bay View Railway down what's now Third Street and Kentucky Streets across Islais Creek to the track at the end of the line.

Bay View Park Race Course The Bay View Park Race Course was an early recreational facility constructed within what is now Bayview-Hunters Point. Built in 1864 by several prominent investors at the heart of what is now the South Basin Activity Node in Area B, the facility was constructed on marshland to take advantage of the underlying soggy soil, which was thought at the time to provide a springy surface that enhanced the speed of the horses. Accessed by several graded roads paved with oyster shells, the Bay View Race Course also had a hotel. Originally it was supposed to have been accessed by horse-drawn rail cars but this line was not built beyond Islais Creek until the 1880s. By the early 1880s, the hotel had burned and the race course abandoned. By the time the 1883 Coast Survey Map was published, Bay View Park was no more, leaving little behind aside for its name, which eventually became applied to the surrounding flats south of the Hunters Point peninsula.The period of significance for this theme is 1864-1880.”

Ocean View Course

Golden Gate Driving Park

Bay District Racetrack

Ingleside Racetrack

"Dam of Death:" The Fall River Line Rail and Steamship Travel (1847 to 1937)

The Fall River Line Rail Line
and Steamship Travel 
Between Boston and New York 
from 1847 to 1937

The Fall River Line was a combination steamboat and railroad connection between New York City and Boston that operated between 1847 and 1937. It consisted of a railroad journey between Boston and Fall River, Massachusetts, where passengers would then board steamboats for the journey through Narraganset Bay and Long Island Sound to the line's own Hudson River dock in Manhattan. For many years, it was the preferred route to take for travel between the two major cities. The line was extremely popular, and its steamboats were some of the most advanced and luxurious of their day.”

In 1872 the Fall River Line was completely reorganized and became part of the Old Colony Railroad under the name Old Colony Steamboat Company.

In 1883, the Pilgrim was launched. The first modern liner of the fleet, she featured a double-hull for increased safety, was 370 feet long, and had sleeping quarters for 1,200 passengers. At the time of its launch it was the largest steamboat in the world. The Pilgrim could make the 176 mile trip between Fall River and New York in about 8.5 hours."

The Puritan was added in 1889, and would serve the line until 1908.

Introduced in 1908, the Commonwealth was the largest of the fleet, at 455 feet in length. She provided 425 staterooms for passengers and boasted a grand staircase, a dining saloon, writing room, and a dance floor.

"In 1894, the Fall River Line launched the Priscilla, which at the time was the largest side-wheeler afloat, capable of accommodating 1,500 passengers.

“The Old Colony Railroad (OC) was a major railroad system, mainly covering southeastern Massachusetts and parts of Rhode Island. It operated from 1845 to 1893. Old Colony trains ran from Boston to points such as Plymouth, Fall River, New Bedford, Newport, Providence, Fitchburg, Lowell and Cape Cod. For many years the Old Colony Railroad Company also operated steamboat and ferry lines, including those of the Fall River Line with express train service from Boston to its wharf in Fall River where passengers boarded luxury liners to New York City. The company also briefly operated a railroad line on Martha's Vineyard, as well as the freight-only Union Freight Railroad in Boston. The OC was named after the "Old Colony", the nickname for the Plymouth Colony. 

Old Colony Railroad Depot, Kneeland Street, Boston

“From 1845 to 1893, the OC network grew extensively largely through a series of  mergers and acquisitions with other established railroads, until it was itself acquired by the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad, under lease agreement on March 1, 1893 for its entire 617-mile network.
The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, commonly known as the New Haven, was a railroad that operated in the northeast United States from 1872 to 1968. It served the states of Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusets its primary connections included Boston and New York”

Murry Street Pier, New York City


Gardner, J. Howland, The Development of Steam Navigation on Long Island Sound, originally published in 1945 by The Society of Navel Architects and Marine Engineers, reprinted 1994 by The Steamship Historical Society of America, Providence, Rhode Island. 

McAdam, Roger Williams, The Old Fall River Line, New York, Stephen Daye Press, 1937, 1955

McAdam, Roger Williams, Priscilla of Fall River, New York, Stephen Daye Press, 1956

McAdam, Roger Williams, Salts of the Sound, New York, Stephen Daye Press, 1957

McAdam, Roger Williams, The Glory That Was: A Pictorial History of The World Famed Fall River Line, Fall River, Massachusetts, R.E. Smith Printing Company, 1967

McAdam, Roger Williams, Floating Palaces: New Engliand to New York on the Old Fall River Line, Rhode Island, Andrew Mowbray Publishing, 1972

Clegg, Charles and Beebe, Lucius, The Trains We Rode: Volume 1, Alton to New York Central, Berkeley, California, Howell-North Books, 1965, The Railroad Network

"Roma Arroyo:" The Real City of Roma, Texas!

The Real City of Roma, Texas

Roma was founded in 1765 and incorporated in 1936. It serves as a port of entry from Mexico into the U.S. via the Roma-Ciudad Miguel Aleman International Bridge. Prior to Texas's independence from Mexico in 1836, the town was listed as under the jurisdiction of the town of Mier, Tamaulipas,  and prior to Mexican Independence existed under Spanish rule.”

The Roma-Ciudad Miguel Alemán International Bridge ordinarily serves a port of entry between Mexico and the United States It is open 24 hours a day, all year long. It spans the Rio Grande (known as Rio Bravo in Mexico) between Roma, Texas and Ciudad Miguel Aleman, Tamaulipas

This suspension bridge was built in 1928 and was reopened in 2004. It is a National Historic Landmark in the United States and in Mexico. Roma was a prosperous riverport in the 19th century. Historic structures front a plaza overlooking the Rio Grande with a view of the bridge.

The Roma Ciudad Aleman International Bridge is currently out of service pending renovation.”

Ciudad Miguel Alemán, known prior to 1950 as San Pedro de Roma, is a city in the Mexican State of Tamaulipas, located across the Rio Grande from the U.S. city of Roma, Texas. The two are linked by the Roma-Ciudad Miguel Aleman International Bridge, a suspension bridge. As of 2010, the population of the city was 19,997. The total population of the surrounding municipality was 27,015.

Mier (Spanish: Ciudad Mier), also known as El Paso del Cántaro, is a city in Mier Municipality in Tamaulipas, located in northern Mexico near the Rio Grandge, just south of  Falcon Dam. It is 90 miles (140 km) northeast of Monterrey on Mexican Federal Highway 2.  In 1990, the population was recorded at 6,190. By the 2010 census, it had dropped to 4,762 inhabitants.  It has an agricultural economy centered on cotton, sugarcane, corn, and livestock.

The town was founded on March 6, 1753. The land was originally owned by Felix de Almandoz. Land later passed on to General Prudencio Basterra who married Felix's sister Ana Maria. 19 Families from Camarrgo  formed the new settlement. The town is called Mier because the governor of the New Kingdom of León from 1710 to 1714, Francisco Mier y Torre, used to spend the night there on his way to Texas. It began to be called Estancia de Mier and then simply Mier. This is where the steamboats used to stop when they came up the Río Bravo.”

"Dam of Death:" Building an Earth Dam

Rye Patch Dam, Nevada

What is the purpose of the dam?

"The purpose of a dam is to impound (store) water, wastewater or liquid borne materials for any of several reasons, e.g. flood control, human water supply, irrigation, livestock water supply, energy generation, containment of mine tailings, recreation or pollution control. Many dams fulfill a combination of the above functions.

Manmade dams may be classified according to the type of construction material used, the methods used in construction, the slope or cross-section of the dam, the way the dam resists the forces of the water pressure behind it, the means used for controlling seepage and, occasionally, according to the purpose of the dam.

The materials used for construction of dams include earth, rock, tailings from mining or milling, concrete, masonry, steel, timber, miscellaneous materials (such as plastic or rubber) and any combination of these materials."

"In many tropical, subtropical and Mediterranean climates, dry season agriculture and the pre-rainy season establishment of food and cash crops cannot be under- taken without large quantities of water. To rely upon streamflow at a time when temperatures and evaporation are often at a peak can be unrealistic and risky. It may become essential for a dam to be constructed on a river or stream to allow for off-season storage of vital water supplies. Although primarily for irrigation, such structures can be used, either separately or combined, for fish farming1, stock and domestic water purposes, drainage sumps, groundwater recharge, flood ameliora- tion and conservation storage."


Types of Embankment Dams

"Embankment dams are the most common type of dam in use today. They have the general shape shown here.

Materials used for embankment dams include natural soil or rock, or waste materials obtained from mining or milling operations. An embankment dam is termed an “earthfill” or “rockfill” dam depending on whether it is comprised of compacted earth or mostly compacted or dumped rock.

The ability of an embankment dam to resist the reservoir water pressure is primarily a result of the mass weight, type and strength of the materials from which the dam is made."

Also good mock videos of dams collapsing. 

Chencha earth dam, Ethiopia


Site Planning

What is the start date and date of completion?

"Site selection is a critical component to the success or failure of an earth fill dam. Consider the following points: 

The dam must have the potential to fill with runoff (most years) or store sufficient water between runoff events that fill the reservoir. It is essential that the dam and reservoir have sufficient depth and volume to last through extended periods of drought.

Topographical features such as slope, width and height of dam, as well as reservoir capacity will influence construction costs. A topographical survey of the proposed dam site will be required to estimate costs, prepare necessary information for licensing and provide construction details for the contractor.

Soil conditions must be suitable for both compaction and the prevention of seepage losses through the dam. It is highly recommended that some pre-construction soil testing be done at the proposed site or sites. This testing can be accomplished by digging five or six test holes or test pits where the dam and reservoir are to be located. Soils should be checked to depths three feet below that of any proposed excavation for the dam or reservoir.

An assessment of the hazard potential downstream should a dam failure occur.

A good location for a spillway that will effectively handle runoff and minimize erosion.

Watershed activities that can affect the water quality or quantity of runoff."


Dam Planning

Dam Capacity

"The water storage capacity of a dam and reservoir can be estimated as follows: 

Dam capacity =
[Reservoir Length x Reservoir Width (at the dam) x
Depth of the Water (maximum)]

[400 feet x 100 feet x 12 feet] / 3 = 160,000 cubic feet 

160,000 cubic feet x 6.25 gallons per cubic foot = 
1 million gallons 

This calculation provides a close estimate on steep sided V-shaped water channels, but the accuracy of the estimate is poor on flatter, U-shaped water channels. 

Note: The reservoir must store enough water between runoff events for a secure supply and have good storage characteristics to prevent excessive evaporation losses."

Dam Design

"A typical design of a small earth-fill dam is shown below. For stability, the upstream slope must be a minimum of 3:1. Erosion protection is required to protect the dam from wave action. This protection can be achieved with a combination of smaller and larger rocks (or other suitable material) and, with smaller projects, a floating log boom. 

The downstream slope requires a minimum 2:1 slope, seeded with native grasses to prevent surface erosion. 

The top or crest of the dam should be a minimum of 10 feet wide (preferably 15 feet) to accommodate road traffic and minimize the potential for erosion. 

The crest elevation should be a minimum of three feet above the Full Supply Level (FSL) of the reservoir. 

The dam should be fenced to prevent livestock traffic, as this traffic can be a major cause of slope and crest degradation."


Site Clearing

"The area to be covered by the embankment should be pegged out prior to commencement of any works. The embankment and the area to be excavated should be cleared and grubbed.

Topsoil should be heaped in areas outside of the area to be covered by the embankment and all trees, scrub and roots removed. Topsoil should be placed in layers not exceeding 200 mm and planted with grass if it is to be left for a considerable time (more than 6 months). This will conserve the integrity of the topsoil.

All saturated material in the embankment area must be pushed well clear of the site and must not be used in the embankment.


Dam Construction

Diversion Tunnels:
"To build a Dam the engineers must first de-water the part of the river valley in which they wish to place the dam. This is usually achieved by diverting the river through a tunnel. The tunnel is built through one side of the valley around the planned construction area. A series of holes is drilled in the rock. Explosives are placed in the drill holes, blasting takes place and broken rock is then removed. This procedure is repeated many times until the tunnel is completed."

"Work on diverting the river starts in summer when river levels are low. Earth-moving equipment is used to build a small dam (called a cofferdam) upstream of the main construction area. This acts as a barrier to the river and causes it to flow through the diversion tunnel. Another cofferdam is built downstream of the main damsite to prevent water flowing back into the construction area."

Site Construction

The area covered by the base of the dam must be stripped of all vegetation and organic soil. The organic soil can be stockpiled and used on the downstream slope of the fill. All slopes steeper than 1.5:1 on sides of draw should be flattened to minimum of 2:1. 

Key trench
A key trench (cutoff trench) is excavated below the base of the fill upstream of the centerline of the fill. The key trench is incorporated in the design for two reasons: to anchor the dam to the base material and to prevent piping (seepage under the fill). 

The key trench should be a minimum of three feet deep for a dam the height of 10 to 12 feet. It should extend the full length of the dam and reach one third to one half of the way up the side slope of the draw."

Dam Construction
"Fill construction
The dam must be constructed from an impervious (clay or clay-based) material. A simple field test to determine the suitability of the material for compaction requires adding a small amount of moisture to a handful of material and then mixing to the consistency of putty. 

Next, try rolling the material between the palms of your hands. The material has good compaction characteristics if it can be rolled to the diameter of a pencil, approximately six inches long, then bent into a loop without separating the material. Several attempts may be required to obtain the proper moisture level to do the test. 

Construction material taken from the surrounding hillsides or an excavation in the reservoir area must be placed close to horizontal in the fill in six inch layers and compacted. If the material is dry, moisture will have to be added, and suitable compaction equipment such as a sheepsfoot packer used to obtain the proper compaction. 

A simple test to evaluate proper compaction is to place the edge of the heel of a hard-soled boot on the fill and push down hard with all your weight. If only a mark is left, compaction is satisfactory. If the heel sinks in, compaction is poor. No rocks over six inches in diameter should be placed in the fill. 

Start construction by filling the key trench with well-compacted material, and continue adding six inch layers until the maximum height is obtained. The top of the dam at the center of the draw should be built 10 per cent higher than the design to allow for settlement of the fill. 

A riparian pipe should be placed through the bottom of the fill during construction, along with a frost-free valve (curb stop) set well back in the fill to ensure frost protection. This pipe and valve system will allow water to be released downstream to a stock-watering trough, or to other water storage facilities during times of water shortages. "

"Embankment Dam: Forces
Water pushes against the embankment dam, but the heavy weight of the dam pushes down into the ground and prevents the structure from falling over."


Building the spillway or stream return

"The purpose of the spillway is to pass flood flows without overtopping the dam wall. Particular attention must be paid to providing adequate width and depth (or freeboard) of the spillway as per the specifications given in the dam permit. The following guidelines apply to spillways:

1. The absolute minimum width of a spill way is three metres.

2. Minimum spillway dimensions are given on the permit. Alteration of the spillway by the installation of culvert pipes should be treated with great caution. Adequate allowance for the passage of the specified flood flows must be maintained by increasing the amount of freeboard or increased spillway width if culvert pipes, or any other obstruction, is used or required in the spillway. Specific engineering advice must be sought before changing, modifying or obstructing a spillway in any manner.

3. The spillway should be cut in solid material (preferably rock) that will resist erosion. The stream return should be channelled back to the original watercourse and stabilised with a suitable size riprap consisting of rock or other materials such as Reno Mattresses or Gabions that will resist erosion and subsequent deposition of soil materials downstream.

4. In no circumstances should a spillway be blocked by either logs becoming wedged in the spillway or the spillway being purposely filled in to increase the capacity of the dam. The spillway of a dam is purposely designed to pass a very extreme flood. Reducing the size of the spillway increases the risk of the embankment overtopping and ultimately failing because the size of the spillway is limited to only passing smaller flood events than what the dam was originally designed for and the freeboard of the dam is reduced.

5. It is the dam owner’s responsibility to maintain the dam in a safe condition at all times including the maintenance of an adequate spillway able to pass the specified flood flows."


Finishing the Dam


Filling of the Dam

"When the dam is completed the diversion tunnel is closed and the lake begins to fill. The closure of the diversion tunnel has two phases. During low flow a large re-usable steel gate is lowered across the entrance. The diversion tunnel is then permanently blocked off by the construction of a concrete plug."



"Once the dam has been constructed, regular maintenance and inspections are required to ensure it remains in a good operating condition.

Dams over 10 metres in height and dams with hazard categories of ‘Significant’ and higher require the following regular inspections to be carried out:

Weekly or more frequent inspection to be carried out by the owner.

Biennial or intermediate inspections and surveillance reports carried out by a suitably qualified person (as defined by the Water Management (Safety of Dams ) 2003 Regulations).

Comprehensive surveillance reports carried out every 5 years by a suitably qualified person such as a Class A competent Engineer.

The maintenance and inspection requirements detailed above do not always apply to Lower hazard category dams. In such cases the dam owner should read their dam permit to verify what maintenance and inspection requirements must be undertaken.

It is good practice for the dam owner to inspect their dam on a regular basis to ensure that the dam is operating in a safe manner. Such inspections should include the following as well as any other matters the dam owner thinks necessary to inspect:

Inspection of the spillway to ensure it is not blocked by logs or trees growing in the spillway or deliberately blocked to increase the capacity of the dam (section 3.16 provides information on spillways);

Inspection to ensure that trees have not become established on or near a dam embankment. Tree roots can cause the embankment to crack leading to dam stability problems (section 3.15 provides information on vegetation). The highest plant growth that should be allowed on a dam embankment is pasture grass to protect against erosion.

Seepage from the dam should be monitored on a regular basis. Seepage is generally normal in all dams and should not be a concern unless it increases over a time or the water becomes turbid (dirty). An increase in turbid water is an indication that the embankment may be eroding internally which may lead to piping failure. If concerned, a suitably qualified and experienced person should be consulted.

It is suggested that the dam owner use a logbook to record observations from any dam maintenance and inspections visits for future reference."


Water quality and drought proofing

"There are a number of ways to improve the water quality in a dam. At the planning stage, avoid sites where watershed activities can allow poor quality or contaminated runoff to enter the reservoir of the dam. Examples of these sites include heavily cultivated fields or areas where a heavy concentration of livestock manure exists. 

The design of the reservoir can also help improve water quality. The deeper the excavated reservoir, the better the water quality and the more drought proof it will be from evaporation losses.

Stripping the topsoil from the flooded area of the reservoir will reduce the amount of nutrients available for plant and algae growth. The more plant and algae growth generated, the more rot and decay are generated and cause the water quality to deteriorate. Regular treatments to help control plant growth will help maintain water quality."



"Dam of Death": Book Two: The Will Austin Adventure Series

The Will Austin Adventure Series Book Two: "Dam of Death" Boston 1888. Sheriff Will Austin, now retir...