From Inspections to Repairs: How this first-class maintenance team is ensuring the longevity of the dam

From Inspections to Repairs: How this first-class maintenance team is ensuring the longevity of the dam

There’s a dedicated crew of 17 highly skilled Brazos River Authority employees tasked with extending the life of the oldest water supply reservoir in the Brazos River basin.

Zane Bridges, Tyson Heath, Randall McCartney, David Noyola,
Troy Weatherhead, Mike McClendon

The Reservoir System Maintenance Unit, also known as RSMU, works solely to maintain the Morris Sheppard Dam at Possum Kingdom Lake. This talented crew and their commitment to excellence has streamlined maintenance and improved project efficiency while saving the BRA millions.

“These guys, there’s not many things they can’t do,” said Randall McCartney, Possum Kingdom Lake reservoir manager.

McCartney said the sky is the limit to the type of work the RSMU crew can do, and with great attention to detail, works year-round to maintain the structure, located on the main stem of the Brazos River northwest of Fort Worth.

The RSMU is made up of welders, painters, blasters, and concrete workers that are skilled in fabricating, coatings applications, metalizing, and heavy equipment operation, among other skillsets.

RSMU staff has proven they can repair, replace, construct, install and maintain challenging engineering projects. Due to their talents, they help the BRA save money by not having to go out to hire a firm to complete work on the 82-year-old structure that stand 2,700 feet long and 190 feet high, or one-half mile long and 13 stories high. 

The BRA Board of Directors approved the formation of the RSMU in June 1992 to address recurring maintenance, repair and, ultimately, the replacement of the spillway gates.

The RSMU crew creates superior finished projects all while dealing with Texas’ weather, confined areas, water hazards, extreme heights, and hazardous chemicals.

This crew worked around the clock when the Morris Sheppard Dam gates need opening, said BRA GM/CEO David Collinsworth. Completed in 1941 with the aid of the Depression-era Works Progress Program, the dam includes nine steel roof weir or bear-trap gates that are 74 feet long by 13 feet high and are rigorously maintained by the RSMU crew. 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.

This group is first class, and makes the BRA first class, Collinsworth said. 

“Our water is not what’s important. Our people are what is important,” he said.

BRA Director Jim Lattimore Jr. said he guarantees there’s no one in the business with the expertise of the RSMU crew. 

BRA Director Rick Huber said he is amazed at the RSMUs skillset and how they can do what an expensive firm could do.

“I think it’s wonderful we have your team, and I can see us expanding on that in the future. It’s wonderful. It’s just amazing,” Huber said.