Little River Dam and Reservoir

Client: City of Durham Water Management
Location: Durham, NC

Hazen and Sawyer’s long association with the City of Durham in water supply development began with a 1974 study proposing development of the Little River Dam and Reservoir. Completed in 1988, Little River Reservoir supplies approximately half (up to 21 mgd) of the City’s water. The firm provided comprehensive engineering services from initial studies through design, environmental permitting, construction administration, and operation and maintenance for the Little River Dam and Reservoir Project.

Little River Dam viewed from downstream.

Little River Dam aerial view.

Construction of Little River Dam.

Upstream face of the dam exposed during the 2007 drought presented an opportunity for maintenance and repairs as well as painting the spillway roller gates.

View of the spillway roller gates operators.

Testing the spillway roller gates.

Inundation mapping performed for Little River Dam showing downstream inundation extents for emergency action planning and corresponding notifications, evacuations, and road closures.

Electronic Operation and Maintenance (eO&M) Manual developed for Little River Dam serves as a convenient repository for all pertinent information related to the facility.

Project Outcomes and Benefits

  • Comprehensive engineering services from initial studies through design, environmental permitting, construction administration, and post construction services.
  • Recent operation and maintenance services include engineering services for repairing spillway roller gates and completion of concrete and seepage system repairs.
  • Preparation of EAP and assistance in completing a successful tabletop exercise attended by local and state emergency management officials.
  • State-of-the-art electronic O&Ms (eO&M) in which the historical database for facility design, construction and O&M are linked via a user-friendly HTML web page interface.
  • Regular inspections of Little River Dam and related inspection reports.

The Little River Dam is 95-foot high zoned earthfill embankment containing 400,000 cubic yards of fill material. The principal spillway is a gated ogee section with nine vertical roller gates that are operated during periods of extreme floods to increase spillway capacity. The State of North Carolina classifies the dam as a “large” size, “high” hazard structure.

Hazen has completed a series of projects at Little River Dam, including needed upstream repairs and painting of the spillway gates during the 2007 drought, spillway relief well coring in 2008, and security-related improvements to the 72-inch raw water pipeline. More recently, in 2007, the City of Durham retained Hazen and Sawyer to provide comprehensive services for the continued compliance of Little River Dam and Lake Michie Dam with the State of North Carolina Dam Safety Regulations. Specific tasks included preparing an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) for each dam, updating the Operation and Maintenance (O&M) Manual for Little River Dam and developing an O&M Manual for Lake Michie Dam, providing a comprehensive update of the yield of Little River Reservoir and Lake Michie, and performing annual dam safety inspections for each dam.

For more information on this project, or to discuss a similar project in your area, contact Jeffery Powers at