Start-to-Finish Solution for Rebuilding Dam and Spillway with HDPE Pipe

Use of HDPE ensured durability and longevity of the spillway pipe, preserving a family lake for generations to come.


Record-breaking Floods
On Memorial Day weekend 2015, historic flash and river flooding struck parts of South-Central Texas. Extremely heavy rainfall caused  the Blanco River to rise from below flood stage to major flood stage in 45 minutes. Within hours, the river was at more than 40 feet and well above record level. Wimberley, Texas was one of the most severely impacted towns. The flooding left massive destruction in its wake.

The Devastation Left Behind
Jim Pierce is a second generation rancher in Wimberley. His property spans about 2,000 acres and was purchased by his father in the early 1960’s. Soon after, a lake was constructed on the ranch covering about 20 surface acres. Over the years, it’s been used by family and friends for swimming, skiing, and world-class bass fishing.

In 1971, a dam was built with a 24- inch polymer-coated, galvanized steel spillway pipe buried inside. About 15 to 20 years ago, Jim noticed the pipe had formed some slow leaks. “Going through long dry spells in Texas, you hate to see any water leaking out of your lake,” Jim explained. “We’d been fighting this issue for a while, including trying to re-coat the pipe, and hadn’t fixed the problem.”

After a series of flooding in 2015, including the massive Memorial Day weekend storms, Jim had to fix the problem once and for all. During one storm, the spillway pipe had been overwhelmed by floodwater flowing over it for more than four hours, eroding the grass and dirt, compromising its structural integrity. “We had to get in there and fix the pipe. However, we knew eventually we would have to abandon the existing spillway after years of leaking,” Jim said. “While we were in there, we decided to add an additional spillway that could take over. For this one, we wanted to use a pipe that would be more durable and last longer.”


Finding a Fix

Jim initially reached out to a company that used high-density polyethylene (HDPE) for the repair. He had consulted with several engineers and decided to replace the existing metal spillway pipe which, at this point, was heavily corroded and failing, with a new plastic pipe. He would then rebuild the earthen dam on top.

However, the first company Jim contacted couldn’t give him satisfactory answers to the technical questions he had about the application of HDPE. Because of that, he considered PVC or profile wall HDPE.


Start-to-Finish Solution

A quick internet search turned up ISCO Industries and Jim reached out for help. Sales representatives Hal Smith and James Schiller visited Jim’s ranch in the afternoon.

They were confident they could solve the problem. “The team at ISCO was able to offer Jim multiple options,
answer all of his technical questions, and match him with solid wall HDPE,” Hal explained. The durability of HDPE will give Jim the benefit of not having to worry about corrosion or rusting in the future.

ISCO provided 240 feet of 24-inch DR17 and DR26 HDPE pipe, as well as three wall anchor fittings. HDPE is joined via heat fusion, making the joint stronger than the pipe itself. ISCO not only provided the pipe material for the job, but also fusion service consultation, making installation a simple process. ISCO’s focus on the whole job, not just supplying the pipe, made this job a success.

When Jim was ready to settle for an inferior product, ISCO was able to give him the answers he needed and help save the family lake. “Working with ISCO was great. The guys were efficient and cooperative. Everything went how they said it would,” Jim explained. “Everyone at ISCO was knowledgeable. It was a neat process. In fact, I’m building more lakes and intend to use ISCO and HDPE again.”

McElroy fusion equipment fusing HDPE pipe fixing a spillway in Wimberly, Texas

Preserving History, Securing the Future

The new spillway pipe and rebuilt dam will last for at least another 50 years. That means generation after generation of memories swimming, skiing, playing, and fishing in the family lake. That…is priceless.


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