Missouri dam checked for structural soundness after earthquake

Joyce L. Miller

Shortly after a 5.2 earthquake in Illinois was reported Friday morning, engineers at Osage Hydroelectric Plant were checking Bagnell Dam for any stress or cracks.

Phil Thompson, who heads operations at Bagnell Dam, said although no tremors were reported in the area, the procedures called for an inspection of the dam as a safety precaution. It is referred to as a Level One response, he said. 

Plant personnel conduct a thorough “walk down of the entire dam,” he said, “looking for any damage that could have been caused by seismic activity. It is not required, but AmerenUE takes a conservative approach. We found no indication of any problems.”

Cursory inspections are completed daily. Each week engineers walk through and do a closer look. Engineering assessments are conducted quarterly, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission insects annually.

Every five years, AmerenUE is required to hire an outside engineering firm to do an independent evaluation of the structure, Thompson said.

“Bagnell Dam is what is called a concrete gravity dam. The type of construction used to build Bagnell Dam is recognized as one of the strongest,” he said. “No dam should be assumed to be impervious to anything Mother Nature throws at us, but this is one of strongest and best-made dams.”

While there was no aftershock felt, the earthquake did remind many around the lake area that a natural disaster can strike anytime and catch many unprepared.

Morgan County Emergency Management Director Rick Bias said it is a good time to take stock of your home or businesses emergency preparedness plan. It’s also a good time to stock up on supplies.

Camden County Emergency Management Director Denise Russell said everyone should have enough supplies on hand to get by for 96 hours. At a minimum, people should keep a stockpile of essentials such as food, water, medicine and other items to take care of children and pet’s needs.

“A lot of people don’t think about this, but it is something that should be of concern and people should be prepared for,” Russell said.

While residents should take the opportunity to assess what they can do to prepare in an emergency, state and local agencies are doing the same to make sure when a disaster strikes the steps are in place to activate their emergency response plan, she said.

“These types of plans have to be very flexible and can change because you don’t know what kind of damage will happen,” Russell said. “There is an extensive mobilization of assets that will happen in an event. Federal, state and county agencies have plans in place.”

Contact this reporter at