A person wearing a harness and hard hat uses a rope to climb a metallic and concrete structure.

Tainter Gate Structural Analysis Report


Our Client’s Challenge

Tainter gates, or radial gates, are arc-shaped radial arm floodgates pivotal in managing water flow over dam spillways. These gates are critical for water management, flood control, and the safety of large dam structures.

Our client recognized the importance of a thorough structural evaluation of its dam’s 50-foot-tall gates to understand their condition and support future operations and maintenance. The evaluation would also satisfy the 10-year Category 1 radial gate inspection under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Engineering Guidelines for the Evaluation of Hydropower Projects Chapter 14, Appendix L.

The gates’ size and operational significance introduced unique challenges, including accessibility for inspection, limited inspection timelines, and the complexity of the supporting detailed structural analysis.

Our Solution

The client tapped Gannett Fleming’s dam safety experts to conduct a comprehensive evaluation in compliance with rigorous regulatory standards. Our team used specialized rope access techniques for a hands-on inspection, providing direct access to the gates’ critical components. Rope access systems are installed and dismantled quickly, allowing engineers to work at height while providing the safety of a fall arrest system. This approach was crucial to comprehensively assess the gates’ condition despite their significant height and positioning. Our expert structural engineering climbers carried out the inspection safely and meticulously.

Additionally, we incorporated advanced digital data acquisition tools to expedite the inspection process, completing it in under two days. These tools enabled real-time data collection and analysis, improving the efficiency and accuracy of the inspection and subsequent reporting.

For detailed analysis, we used finite element modeling (FEM) to assess the structural capacity of the radial gates under normal and seismic loading conditions. This finite element analysis provided deep insights into the gates’ behavior under various load scenarios, aiding in complex engineering decisions. The results of the detailed structural analysis are critical in shaping maintenance strategies, enhancing long-term dam safety and performance, and understanding the gate members’ demand-to-capacity ratio, which supports future risk analyses.

By addressing the client’s challenges with innovative solutions and expert execution, our team ensured the project met all fieldwork and reporting deadlines and schedule requirements.

Key Features

  • Comprehensive field inspection targeting critical components of the gates.
  • Detailed structural analysis supported by advanced modeling techniques.
  • Adherence to FERC engineering guidelines.


  • FEM data provides a better understanding of the gates’ stress state and the gate members’ sensitivity to future load cases.
  • Detailed analysis and inspection provided crucial insights, guiding the planning of future maintenance and operational strategies.
  • Advanced digital data acquisition tools significantly increased the efficiency of the data collection and analysis process and optimized the inspection timeline.

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