Morris Sheppard Dam gets project approval, Limestone internet upgrades

Morris Sheppard Dam gets project approval, Limestone internet upgrades

The first dam ever built by the Brazos River Authority will see its service life extended after the BRA Board of Directors, at its recent meeting, approved two major maintenance projects. 

The Board met Monday, May 24 over Microsoft Teams for its regularly scheduled meeting, the last tentatively set before resuming in-person meetings at the BRA Central Office in Waco. The Board had been meeting virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

The first construction project built by the Authority, the Morris Sheppard Dam at Possum Kingdom Lake was completed in 1941 with help from the Depression-era Works Progress Administration.  Since that time, maintenance and regular repair of the 80-year-old structure is been a priority for the Brazos River Authority.  The current project involves repair of the pier plate walls that act as a sealing surface for each large gate.  Michael McClendon, BRA upper basin region manager, said a bowing of gate seals began allowing leakage. 


This board-approved contract amendment not to exceed $325,000 with Gannett Fleming Inc. will allow the company to perform additional engineering and construction oversight regarding the pier plate seal replacement. Work is expected to take 18 months per gate with eight additional gates remaining in the project. The dam has nine steel roof weir type gates, also known as bear-trap gates due to their design. Each gate is about 74 feet long and 13 feet high. Built before the days of computerized, electronically-operated hydraulic gates, the bear-trap gates are operated manually – much as they were when the dam was originally built in 1941.

The firm will work alongside the BRA’s dedicated Reservoir System Maintenance Unit, or RSMU - which performs daily, monthly, and quarterly inspections and maintenance of the 2,700-foot-long and 190-foot dam. RSMU team holds a wide variety of responsibilities, from operating the barge across the water to move equipment, using cranes to handle the bigger pieces and diving to the depths of the reservoir the maintain the gates from underwater. Team members are skilled in welding, fabricating, blasting, coatings application, metalizing, and heavy equipment operation among other skillsets.

“I’m really proud of what these guys do up here – the fabrication process is outstanding,” McClendon said. “It’s amazing to watch them in action.”

At the recent meeting, the Board also approved no more than $800,000 for another project for the Morris Sheppard Dam that pushes that project into the third of four phases. 

In October 2018, the Board authorized a contract with Gannett Fleming Inc. for a phased project approach aimed at extending the service life of the dam by evaluating the condition of the existing structures’ concrete, and developing next steps to maximize the useful life of the dam. 

Gannet Fleming has completed Phases I and II. Phase III will consist of targeted destructive testing and investigation, failure mode progression structural analysis and development of a long-term testing and repair program, McClendon said.

The Board of Directors also approved fiber optic cable installation for the BRA’s office at its second-largest reservoir located on the upper Navasota River in Limestone, Robertson and Leon counties.

“Lake Limestone’s network bandwidth is maxed out and is frequently disrupted by environmental conditions,” BRA IT Manager Courtney Dobogai said. “We joke that every time a cloud forms, we lost one of our T1 lines.” 


The office currently utilizes four T1 lines over aged copper cabling for internet and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Dobogai said conditions have deteriorated to the point that Lake Limestone communications with others is adversely impacted. The project will install 14 miles of fiber optic cable at a cost of $616,000.

Also at the meeting, the Board:

•    received the first look at preliminary budget items that will be finalized in July.

•    adopted Texas County and District Retirement System plan provisions.

•    authorized the disposal of surplus property.

The next board meeting will be July 26, 2021. To sign up for Board meeting notification emails, go here. To see a full list of the Board actions, go here. To view minutes from the Board meetings, go here. If you’d also like to sign up to receive the BRA’s quarterly newsletter, please click here.

For more information, email information@brazos.org.