Tempe Town Lake Dam – Case Study


Imagine a state-of-the-art steel dam consisting of seven gates, each 106 feet long, 17 feet tall and weighing 260,000 pounds. Now imagine building it. Think of the oversight necessary to ensure safety, security and efficiency during construction. Accomplishing this feat would take constant vigilance.

This is the challenge PCL Construction, the general contractor on the project, faced as the firm evaluated the massive project of replacing an inflatable rubber dam system at the west end of Tempe Town Lake with the new, hydraulically-operated crest gate dam.


Tempe-based PCL Construction, Inc is one of the largest contracting organizations in North America with an annual construction volume of more than $8 billion. But despite the firm’s size, taking on such an immense project meant planning for a variety of potential problems that might slow construction. Effective project tracking was essential.

Some potential issues to prepare for included:

  • Weather events: Tempe weather is volatile, especially during monsoon season, and, bad weather was sure to cause delays and interfere with scheduling.
  • Equipment loss: Spillover from the existing dam threatened the construction project and jobsite equipment. Losses would be expensive and potentially put the project over-budget.

Ultimately, the firm decided to use TrueLook construction cameras to help them track project progress, and stay on schedule and budget.


TrueLook cameras were used to track project progress from start to finish. “We used the TrueLook cameras to document when storms began and ended, which enabled us to track weather-related delays to our schedule,” said Adam Gordon, Special Projects Manager, PCL.

PCL’s project managers also used the cameras to watch for spillover from the existing dam, so they could pull out equipment on time and prevent capital losses. Footage of weather changes also informed the team of when they’d need to bring in pumps to dewater the work area.


In addition to alleviating these primary concerns, TrueLook camera provided PCL with a number of other benefits:

  • Time-lapse photography provided a documented visual history throughout all phases of the project.
  • Security recordings helped protect equipment and materials by deterring violations and after-hours security incidents.
  • Cameras captured progress throughout the project to keep stakeholders current on the construction status and enable the project manager to fine-tune schedules.
  • Enabled continuous vigilance to motivate workers to be productive and follow procedures.

“TrueLook camera footage can also be used to help PCL satisfy audit requirements from various regulatory agencies, such as the Arizona Department of Water Quality, the Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA and the Flood Control District of Maricopa County,” said Gordon.

Thanks in part to TrueLook cameras facilitating efficient and accurate project tracking, the Dam is now the largest hydraulically-operated crest gate dam system in the country. The steel gate system will provide flood control to make Tempe safer and enable future development. It also will transform a previously dry riverbed into a beautiful, relaxing community gathering place.