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CEMEX Concrete Helps Sustain Arizona’s Tempe Town Lake With New Dam

Date published: Dec 1, 2016

TEMPE, Ariz.—Arizona’s second-largest tourist attraction has new life, thanks to PCL Construction and concrete products provided by CEMEX USA.

Tempe Town Lake was in desperate need of a new dam after the old, rubber-bladder dam failed in 2010. The City of Tempe hired PCL Construction to build a new, hydraulic crest-gate dam—a task that would require a massive amount of specialty concrete. That’s where CEMEX USA came in.

“The new Tempe Town Lake Dam is North America’s largest hydraulically operated crest-gate dam and the first of its kind in Arizona,” said PCL Project Engineer Jim Hensley. “There’s a lot of recreation that takes place here at this lake, and they needed a permanent solution from the old rubber-bladder dam; something that would operate long-term. This new system should last at least 50 years, requires little maintenance and allows the City of Tempe to take ownership of the lake and control the dam itself.”

The new dam consists of eight large crest gates, fabricated from a local steel fabricator. Each steel segment weighs 300,000 lbs. and is operated by two massive single acting hydraulic cylinders; one at each end.

Installing such a dam was a monumental challenge. Construction had to be scheduled to accommodate monsoon flow events, severe temperatures and releases from the upstream dam, among other factors—all while leaving an active, urban lake and the bustling community around it relatively undisturbed.

“There were many difficult aspects to this project, from the roller-compacted concrete to the cement-bentonite wall to the scour wall, not to mention the weather and temperature requirements. It required mass concrete placements simultaneously, and all at night. There was a lot of work and coordination involved,” Hensley said.

To meet the specifications of the owner, permitting agency and engineer, CEMEX mobilized a batch plant to do multiple test strips at the Yuma branch and on the jobsite, so the mixes and end products could be approved.

“CEMEX really had the end user and contractor in mind when they came onto this project. They provided custom mix designs that helped us perform and overcome the challenges unique to this jobsite, and delivered these materials safely.” Hensley said. “PCL is proud to partner with CEMEX to on this project, which benefits both the City of Tempe and the State of Arizona.”

Since the lake was created in 1999, its economic impact to the area has reportedly exceeded $1.5 billion.

“Supplying concrete for projects like the Tempe Town Lake Dam not only helps CEMEX USA achieve our mission of building a better future for our communities, but also gives us the opportunity to create world-class, customized concrete products to help our valued customers—like PCL Construction— achieve their goals. We’re dedicated to providing the best products in the business and proud of the work we did with PCL on this project,” CEMEX USA West Region President Eric Wittmann said.

CEMEX is a global building materials company that provides high-quality products and reliable service to customers and communities in more than 50 countries throughout the world. For more information, visit