Corps of Engineers expands exclusion zone after completing study on dam safety implications of drilling, hydrofracturing and extraction at Joe Pool Dam

Published March 15, 2016

FORT WORTH, Texas – In keeping with its top priority of protecting life safety, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Worth District recently completed a study on the dam safety implications of drilling, hydrofracturing and extraction at Joe Pool Dam, Grand Prairie, Texas. 

The district contracted the services of DLZ National, Inc., a top engineering consulting firm, to provide expertise for the main study areas of petroleum engineering, geomechanics and hydraulic fracturing.

The goal of the study was to evaluate impacts associated with the development of the gas-rich Barnett Shale formation, which underlies Joe Pool Dam. The study utilized both published data and site specific information obtained from drilling companies to assess possible impacts that drilling, hydraulic fracturing, injection and extraction could have on the structural integrity of the project.  The study also evaluated the adequacy of the project’s 3,000-foot exclusion zone, the zone that had been adopted more than 20 years ago in order to safeguard the project and its authorized project purposes from minerals-related activities. 

The study results were then used to inform a risk assessment of the dam, which identified potential failure modes associated with mineral extraction and the consequences of those failure modes on project performance and, most importantly, on life safety. 

Because of the life safety impacts and overall critical nature of the study, the study and the risk assessment were subjected to an Independent External Peer Review, USACE’s highest level of review.   

USACE has concluded the 3,000-foot exclusion zone at Joe Pool Dam does not sufficiently meet our minimal tolerable risk guidelines and therefore, poses a risk to the dam, the lake, and the public. 

As a result of this finding, USACE has adopted a 4,000-foot exclusion zone at Joe Pool Dam.  Within that zone no drilling will be allowed, regardless of depth.  USACE is also working to protect the project from the effects of induced seismicity by limiting injection wells within five miles of Joe Pool Dam.  

 “USACE welcomes environmentally sound oil and gas exploration and other mineral extraction activities; but we must always ensure that those activities pose no threat to our critical facilities and life safety,” said Col. Calvin C. Hudson II, commander, Fort Worth District.

The Study can be viewed at


Rhonda Paige
819 Taylor Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76021

Release no. 16-019