Nova Kahkovka Dam: Four Frontline Floodgates

1 year ago 14

Part 3 of What Caused the Collapse of the Nova Kakhovka Dam?

June 29, 2023

(slightly rough, incomplete)

(adds/edits June 30, July 1, 4, 18...)

My part 1 considered hydrologic erosion vs. damage - from onetime Russian bombing and repeated Ukrainian rocket shelling - in the June 6 collapse of Nova Kakhovka dam. Initially I took erosion as unlikely to matter and some kind of attack - by either side, and I'd suspect Ukraine - as "at least 50% likely." That's been greatly downgraded since, but not ruled out ... may be some smaller explosions were involved to start or just worsen a collapse that might well have occurred - and more than likely did occur - without explosives, 

My last post is part 2 and explained the hydrologic overload that may have caused, or at least worsened, the Nova Kakhovka dam catastrophe, and how it might have been deliberately engineered by Ukraine.  It was their dams and reservoirs - five of them - that came out low as they made it so far too much water came in to Lake Kakhovka, filling the reservoir from record lows to 100% full in a matter of weeks, and keeping it ~100% full for a month, for a massive and high-centered volume. This came as the reservoir had some of its emptying tools disabled months earlier, and it used the rest to drain water at such a rate it flooded the river downstream past safe levels in May and June, flooding Russian trenches and reportedly killing one soldier, and probably, somehow, causing or worsening erosion that finally undermined the dam. 

What I'm looking at now, in my amateur effort, is how that initial collapse came to be at just that time. Neither post has tried to really explain just how water alone (almost alone) could do this. Erosion details will come in part 4. First, we'll consider some mysterious attack(s) on the dam and its sluice gates, or floodgates, and how and why these gates were so poorly-managed during the spring flood season or Ukrainian river offensive.

November: Attack the Floodgates

We'll start with Major General Andrey Kovalchuk, head of Ukraine's 2022 offensive in the Kherson area, as cited in a December, 2022 Washington Post article on The Ukrainian counteroffensive that shocked Putin and reshaped the war (archive.org). "

Kovalchuk considered flooding the river. The Ukrainians, he said, even conducted a test strike with a HIMARS launcher on one of the floodgates at the Nova Kakhovka dam, making three holes in the metal to see if the Dnieper’s water could be raised enough to stymie Russian crossings but not flood nearby villages. The test was a success, Kovalchuk said, but the step remained a last resort. He held off.

This "test" sounds like an actual strike on the dam, not on some test model, causing real damage to this important piece of civilian infrastructure. The article specifies no date and no gate, but that seemed worth establishing if possible.

First, it seems the attack happened sometime between satellite images of October 18 and November 12, and it damaged floodgate 1. We can get this specific just comparing two images. Water flowing through a floodgate will usually be visible from above as a frothy streak on the surface. The top view shows regular flow from several open gates, and none from the closed gates at the dam's far ends. By the next view, even with all 28 floodgates closed, a light, uneven flows appear in 2 new areas at the far ends, both suggesting recent damage. 

At gates 26-28 on the right, the flow begins where the roadway above has been blasted away. Other views show this water mainly flows under the closed gates now that they're misaligned. (November 13 video). That roadway was demolished the night of November 11, by the Russians, after they retreated from the north bank, to prevent Ukrainians following them or getting vehicles on the bridge at all. What seem to be explosive-filled vehicles were later set on the road nearby, probably to deter any Ukrainians from trying to cross on foot. No car bombs or erosion here mattered in the collapse; this section alone remains, with those 2 vehicles still parked. 

But as marked in red above, there's a similar flow at the dam's other end, from gate 1, also appearing since the last image, perhaps also from damage that's not as clear. At this point, damage-related leakage comes from just 2 spots, and no others appear later. And so only gate 1 pops out as having otherwise unexplained damage, and is thus probably the one proudly hit in that "test strike." 

A photo published months later "on social networks" (still to track down) was passed on by Ukrainian FLASH news, among others, showing the sorry state of an unspecified floodgate at the dam. "It is physically impossible to stop the discharge of water at the moment."  (FLASH on Twitter March 6) From that gate, indeed. It would run about like that until collapse in June. 

Rossiya 1 filed a report (details...), with some screenshot shared by OSINTJOURNO on Twitter. The frame below gives a better view. There might be "3 holes," but mainly I see one big hole torn out on the right, below that loose walkway, allowing a serious geyser, along with the nearby edge tearing and overall massive buckling that pulled the gate from its securing rails, letting water also spray around the sides. The damage is worse than it sounded. 

Again, unexplained foamy discharge appears only at gate 1, starting by November 12. NPR's Geoff Brumfiel also decided this is gate 1 from details in the damage photo - a gantry crane is seen parked above gate 3 to the left, and gate 1 has a missing rail or trestle that sets it apart (on Twitter). Both details seen close up at the rocket impact point. We see the blue legs of gantry crane 2 above sluice gate 3, then the inflows to gate 2, above which  the damage starts, and gate 1 where it mainly is. The top of bent gate 1 is just off frame at bottom left. (photo provided to OSINTJOURNO)

Here is that damage mapped, along with 3 other damage points, boxed in red. First, they're absent on September 2, as the hits from at least 2 attacks in August have perforated the curved roadway (gold box). Next, on November 12, damage appears in the red boxes: 2 of them just clearly enough to say, one less clear and one hidden. Gate 1 and roadway near gate 3 seem to have happened. (An October 18 view isn't very clear, but seems to hold from September.) So I'm calling these - roughly - August and November attacks on the dam - with some reported others in between being even less clear.

Russia's mission to the UN published a letter listing dozens of Ukrainian attacks on the dam and its environs. "Overall, during the summer and fall of 2022," it says, "the total of more than 300 missiles were launched from MLRS HIMARS alone against the Kakhovka HPP," and some other rocket models were also used. Some basic details are given, with just one case mentioning the floodgates, and check the date: "On 6 November 2022, the HPP was shelled with 6 HIMARS missiles. One of them hit and damaged the flood-gate of the dam."

Reuters, November 6: "State-owned news agency TASS quoted a representative of the emergency services as saying that a rocket launched by a U.S.-made HIMARS missile system had hit the dam's lock and caused damaged. The official quoted said it was an "attempt to create the conditions for a humanitarian catastrophe" by breaching the dam. The reports provided no evidence to support the allegation, which could not be immediately verified by Reuters." "Lock" sounds more like the lock than a floodgate or sluice gate, but maybe it's in how the word usually translates from Russian.

Readovka News reported at the time

“Today at 10 am, 6 HIMARS missiles hit. Air defense units shot down 5 missiles, one hit the lock of the Kakhovka dam, which was destroyed." That's 11 HIMARS sent, as reported.

The lock/flood-gate hit Nov. 6 is almost certainly the same gate 1 we've seen damaged, and that was leaking by November 12. Since the September view, two other visible impacts appear on either side of gate 3, and what might be 2 close impacts, patched-over, appear on the roadway near gate 5 or 6. All likely relate, maybe from the same attack, with 1-2 other impacts being less visible.

Comparing the impact point at gate 1 to the gate's off-center bend - and assuming that's all from one impact - I found this rocket came from the northeast, roughly from the Nikopol direction, at a distance I won't even venture. But noting the underwater blast suggested at the gate, this might be 2 impacts. But these rockets all came from somewhere Ukrainian; they say it was a US-supplied HIMARS, and thanks. They found they COULD damage the dam and maybe flood the Dnipro downstream, to effect crossings and such. 

No other floodgates I've seen are clearly damaged, but two rockets fell on either side of gate 3, quite likely in the same attack on the 6th. Signs discussed below suggest this gate was at least partially opened before it apparently lost power, sometime after November 15, so at least nine days after the attack in question. If the damage is from November 6, neither the gate nor the cranes were damaged enough to prevent their moving around and opening this one.   

OSINTJOURNALIST has some close-up views on the SE side of gate 3. 

https://twitter.com/osintjourno/status/1672332173704085504 - https://twitter.com/osintjourno/status/1672332946437464064 - https://twitter.com/osintjourno/status/1672889668973502467 

I'm still not sure how the scene and all these views correlate in time and space - some views show some rubble and a toppled fence further over, near gate 5 or 6, where a roadway impact is evident. No closeups of gate 5, but 3 has a ledge demolished just a few meters from the gate, and some walkway with lip that it keeps looking different. The spot always looked complex even from above. A less clear photo (to me, when I looked) was said to show how "the foundation immediately west of gate 3 is giving way. " It looks like a "before" photo but it seems like a complex couple of views. I suffered minutes of headache before giving up on making full sense of it. Here, the most dramatic view with the best context: 

Coming from the north-northeast, the damage we see is from the direct rocket impact and low-angled, "back" side of the blast wave. Fragments on this side would mainly go down into the water ramp and the wall on the left, and maybe the lower gate, if it were closed then (as it was on Nov. 6). The higher-angled forward blast wave and fragments spread would be to the right, towards the hydro plant's powerhouse nearby.

One more view, looking down, we see the likely reason for unclear flow at gate 3: the water is probably passing through a screen of reinforcing bar and concrete that dangles way down.  

Add July 18: I made some sense of the scene, but it includes some before-and-after scenes and with unclear dates - maybe mostly from December, except the "before views" that should be, per known attacks, sometime prior to November 6. 


Gate 3 seems mostly open but perhaps not entirely, and it's still held by the crane, as if it stopped in mid-opening, never releasing the gate like it would probably do after it was locked open. But this shelling didn't cause that; this damage and the apparent impact to the roadway on the other side of it seem to predate November 12, after which the cranes were seen moving around. 

While dangerous erosion appears later near damaged gate 1 and stuck-open gate 3, the connection may be indirect. The constant and uneven flow could wreak havoc on a mud-lined riverbed, but considering the protective concrete basin - and even its being damaged in the same rocket attacks - it remains uncertain enough to cover in detail in my next post.

For now, consider this constant flow was due to the same 4 floodgates being open for months on end, with no change. And that's because the cranes that would move around opening them sat still for that whole time. I wondered when they stopped moving and why this happened. 

When did the cranes stop moving?

David Helms posted the following slide, showing the positions of the 2 cranes (blue) and open sluice gates (green), noting: "Russian occupiers stopped active water management after 1 DEC 2022 for no apparent reason"  

The night of Nov. 11 - the cranes were pulled back to the SE end prior to the roadway blast, and seen there the next day, parked over gates 5 and 6. So they weren't shut down by any shelling on the 6th.  As Helms notes, the cranes moved again after the 11th and 12th, by twilight on the 13th (probably evening, but maybe morning?), and moved again sometime after that (between Nov. 15 and January 2) or as he says, after December 1, but I'm not sure why he's that specific. 

I believe Helms is incorrect on gate 3 closed the whole time, and he's clearly wrong on gate 1 open later on, but otherwise ... Some of these images I haven't seen - notably Nov. 13 & 15. But I assume he read those as well as the others. It all makes sense. They're opening gates in sequence, 5 & 6, then at some point gates 3 and 7 were opened and the cranes were in their final positions, one over and maybe just opening gate 3, stopping perhaps mid-gate and never resuming ... complications arising, mainly because of Ukrainian meddling, was absolutely the norm here.

Helms re-posted the images I hadn't seen. November 13 has a video of the dam at twilight. As Helms called it, this shows the cranes moved to gates 3 and 6. Gate 6 is still closed, the hoist dangling high, unlike at 3, where it seems hanging low but still disconnected from the gate. Neither has been opened yet.  ҐРУНТ on Twitter

The November 15 view is at Sentinel Hub - blurry, but it seems to show the same configuration. Sentinel Hub EO Browser (sentinel-hub.com. I checked for any later views; they were pretty regular to this date, but it's all just clouds or blank from here until a decent view on January 1, a good view on January 19 and then more in February.

The next clear view Helms or I know of is from January 2, with a February NPR report by Geoff Brumfiel, complaining how Russia is draining a massive Ukrainian reservoir, endangering a nuclear plant. This shows a new crane position, reached sometime since the last image. As called, crane 2 is over gate 8, but hasn't gotten it open. Since the last view, it had moved, opening gate 7. At this point, gates 3, 5, 6 & 7 have been pouring non-stop anywhere from a day to a month and a half, and gate 1 has been half-pouring for nearly 2 months.

And finally, the photo of gate 1 damage seems to show the final crane positions; crane 2 is still at gate 3, but unlike on November 13, it seems frozen in mid-hoist. Crane 2 seems to be farther off, around gate 8. The photo surfaced in March, but as some noted, it must have been much older. The water level appears about a meter below splashing-over full, so around 16m or higher, while Hydroweb recorded levels in March were still below 15m. The best time for this level after the damage but before March is in or around early December - 16.07m reported December 2, after a quick rise and before a slow fall, and with some unclear days after. Hydroweb (theia-land.fr)  David Helms on Twitter probably consulted the same to guess the photo was from late November. It's probably from that time and meant to show recent (weeks-old) damage plus new, dangerously high, water levels. So it seems both cranes are immobile, possibly inoperable, by late November or early December, when the level passed 16 meters. That alone seems interesting.

The cited Hydroweb records show an unusual rise to 16.5m - the normal maximum allowed - in September, peaking on October 4. That was corrected over the following weeks with some emptying, to 15.5m - the normal low - and then down to 15.33. Then another sharp rise begins after November 13, with sharpest rise at first, between the 14th and 17th. A week after the floodgates were damaged, was Ukraine pouring in extra water? Maybe as part of its "test" to "see if the Dnieper’s water could be raised enough to stymie Russian crossings but not flood nearby villages?" The level climbs steadily at least to December 2, rising at least 0.74m (from 15.33m to 16.07m). For a reservoir this size in 19 days, that's substantial. It might have gotten even higher just before that or just after, but before a net decline that appears by December 10, then a rise back to 15.95 on the 12th, but down from there.

This buildup might have been alarming, coming as it did atop a newly-damaged dam. As of November 13th, floodgates were being opened, perhaps to slow this rise. Crane 2 moved first, opening gate 5 where it had been parked, maybe skipping gate 4, and parking over the damage-flanked gate 3, not opening it yet. Helms suggests gate 4 was first opened, then closed in between stays at gate 3. but that's less logical, the swerving foam in the 11/13 video is unclear on its origin, and in that video, gate 4 doesn't appear raised like gate 5 is. I think just one gate is opened there. 

This was apparently good enough, at least until midday on the 15th, when the same configuration is seen. The discharge then appears wider than just one gate - maybe 6 and/or 3 has been opened? If not, then it was later that Crane 1 moved, opening gate 6 where it was, then opening gate 7, and getting parked over gate 8 but not opening it yet. It was perhaps just then that crane 2 finally set to opening gate 3 when - perhaps all at once - they stopped. 

My best single guess as to when they stopped is shortly after that last view - later on November 15 or sometime the next day, when the water rise was fastest. Logically, the operators were trying to slow that by opening more gates. They got 3 others open, but their sudden halt might explain the levels rising unabated to the 17th and maybe past (next entry with a milder rise is 11/23). If so, then any such flooding relented on its own - by just a bit - over the following 2 weeks, before it stopped sometime in December (there's a gap from 12/2 to 12/10 during which the level falls overall). Kovalchuk reportedly "held off" on this "last resort." From then to February 2 the trend totally reverses and levels drop to that startling low of 14.06m. 

All of that quite likely happened with no change in the Russian-managed floodgates after mid-November. 

Add July 18: revised thinking on this: the opening of 2-3 gates would have a bigger effect than I thought - the same was done in early October (by satellite views), reversing a serious buildup (per Hydroweb records). It was probably the same in December, as the final 2-3 floodgates were opened - probably after December 2 - to reverse the buildup and turn it to a decline by Dec. 10. Assuming the cranes were stopped in mid-process, they likely stopped sometime around Dec. 3 Dec. 7 or 8, or shortly before the December image of gate 1 showing the final crane position and high water levels only seen at this time. 

Why did the cranes stop moving?

OSINTJOURNO on Twitter is my source for some valuable photos already cited above, and some detailed research into dam construction, etc. that plays into my next post. This also comes with details from dam insiders that might shed light, but are dubious on balance. OSINTJOURNO is staunchly pro-Ukraine, but really seems to put the "open" back in "OSINT" anyway. That might prove an odd balance. Anyway, a valuable Twitter thread started June 21 started off badly:

"I have spoken to several people who were employed at the Kakhovka HPP. Independently, they confirmed that the shelling with HIMARS rockets in 2022 did not cause visible damage the sluice gates." A September 2 image was shown. We also hear that "Crane 1 malfunctioned somewhere in February" and "The lifting mechanism of the sluice gates 2 to 28 is different from that of gate 1. Since crane 2 only contained the lifting beam for gate 1, only gate 1 could be operated." 

These claims were shown wrong, as OSINTJOURNO seems to accept. There was definite visible damage at the first gate most people would see, gate 1, probably from November 6. That's late in the year, but still 2022. So gate 1 couldn't be operated. It wasn't the only one that could be. And crane 2 is seen parked over gate 3 & seems to have it open with whatever attachment it has. It should have been able open other gates, if it could keep running.

So the rest has to come with some grains of salt, and some pepper to get through this part. Let's consider OSINTJOURNO may hear from several people and just one tells fibs or makes up nonsense - sources seem to have too many stories, but maybe it all fits together somehow:

Version 1) One crane alone suffers a malfunction, in January or February, and the other was useless past (undamaged) gate 1, and hence no more gates can be opened. "Crane 1 malfunctioned somewhere in February 2022. It was situated between gates 7 and 8 at that time and has remained there since then." I got agreement that should be 2023 (typo/error), and she added it could have been in January. This is what I panned above. Version 1 is rubbish.  https://twitter.com/osintjourno/status/1671466274415603714

Version 2) A power source on the Ukrainian side was severed by the Russians in their demolition of the roadway on November 11. "According to the former employees I have spoken to, the electricity for crane 1 and 2 (intended for operating gates 1 to 28) came from this transformer station on the Ukrainian-occupied side." https://twitter.com/osintjourno/status/1672923284130746369

This suggests the cranes ran on external electric power supplied via the bridge, perhaps by the rails the cranes moved on. David Helms had assumed they were run by diesel powered engines - which would make this story bogus - but he wasn't sure (Tweet). Neither he nor I can tell how they ran, but external power seems plausible and it's what the insiders say. Someone else can probably just look and tell. If so, please let me know.

An off switch on the Ukrainian side sounds interesting, but as OSINTJOURNO heard, "Due to the destruction of the road surface, rails, and maintenance road adjacent to the rails (all above gates 28, 27, and 26), the electricity supply to crane 1 and 2 from the northern transformer station was interrupted." So as it sounded, the cranes were powerless, and gates 1-28 - all of them - would be left unchanged from November 12 forward. No malfunction in January or February seems likely.

David Helms refuted this along with me, noting the cranes moving around after that date. He was already on record about it. Helms is cited in a February NPR report: Russia is draining a massive Ukrainian reservoir, endangering a nuclear plant. "Then on Nov. 11, 2022, as Ukrainian forces advanced, Russian troops blew up a road over the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Dam" and "immediately after the detonation, it appears that Russian forces deliberately used two gantry cranes on the Russian-controlled side of the dam to open additional sluice gates, allowing water to rush out of the reservoir." 

Version 3) Inverting the above, OSINTJOURNO also heard a power source on the Russian side was disrupted by Ukrainian shelling: "According to the former employees I have spoken to, the electricity needed to operate the cranes was supplied from here to 6 different points where the cranes could tap into that electricity. The HIMARS bombardment caused an interruption in that electricity supply." https://twitter.com/osintjourno/status/1672906920615886848 The indicated spot is on the Russian side, on the shoreward end of the HPP powerhouse. No damage to that spot has been seen, but a second photo of the impact at gate 1 is shown, perhaps suggesting the power was sent by rail and the missing rail disrupted that. But this was at gate 1, probably hit November 6. "The cranes" would both be de-powered in this scenario, but they moved well after that. And for goodness sake ... how many stories do these people have? Just one more ...

Version 4) Crane power came from the north and south, and it's not clear what happened when. Only later did another detail appear, though it might have been there quietly all along. She referred back to the "statement made by ex employees to me stating that electricity for crane 1 and 2 for operating northern gates came from this substation." It said power for all 28 gates, north and south, but OK. With the road demolition, "that nord [north] powerfeed was cut." https://twitter.com/osintjourno/status/1673458203143680000 

After I missed that, she also added "electricity for south operation gates 1 till 14 came from electricity housing south of turbine building. electricity for gates 15 till 28 came from north side." ("crane 3 operated on power rail mounted on wall" and seems only used for opening gates of the power plant) https://twitter.com/osintjourno/status/1673653721778077698

Such details could easily get lost in the shuffle of translation and re-transmission. Versions 2 & 3 merge into version 4, where the north power cut - if that ever happened - was irrelevant to cranes that never tried moving north of gate 8. (Also, any closer might put them in too much sniper danger, if it was even physically possible). 

Finally: "In the weeks leading up to the collapse of the dam, they constantly warned that the water level was reaching catastrophically high levels and repeatedly advocated for the repair of crane 1 to enable the opening of multiple gates again. However, their pleas went unheard."

This suggests not just power supply but physical damage was at issue - or perhaps the "repairs" were to reconnect them to an alternate power source.

No stories yet told explain a power outage in mid-November or December. Maybe the sources were right about the switch on the Ukrainian side, but wrong about its being severed, or its only powering the north half - maybe it ran the whole length, even after November 11, until it was just switched off at some point. If  the cranes were diesel powered, something else needs to explain it - some kind of sabotage from inside or outside, or it could even be a separate event that shut down each crane. And it's possible the Russians could operate the cranes just fine and simply refused to do it. In short, we have no clear answer as to why the cranes stopped moving.

conclusion A Russian Attack?

Geoff Brumfiel's February NPR report said the dam operators opened the floodgates "immediately" after the Russian military's retreat-based detonation of the roadway on November 11, "deliberately ... allowing water to rush out of the reservoir." The reader gathers this was a bit of malicious vandalism against a place they were giving up on, presaging Russia's imminent defeat. It doesn't mention the Ukrainian attacks or rising water levels that preceded this drainage. "[David] Helms believes the deliberate discharge is another way for Russia to hurt Ukraine. Now that Crimea's reservoirs are full, he says, this could be a way for Russia to hamper Ukraine's economy, which depends heavily on agricultural exports." "Ukrhydroenergo, Ukraine's hydro electric company" - who might have done that flooding, and the fatal flooding next spring - "believes the discharge is being done deliberately by the Russians," Brumfiel also wrote. Was that because the Russians wanted to maximize the "success" of Kovalchuk's "test strike" by raising the Dnipro? 

Brumfiel: "The result has been startling ... the reservoir's water level has plummeted to its lowest level in 30 years of satellite observation."

It could be the floodgates were frozen at 4 open and a few leaking - maybe from mid-November - cranes apparently immobilized so that it could do nothing but drain at just that rate, barring refills, which Ukraine of course controlled. They might have two reasons to let it drain low in February: 1) to complain how Russia drained it so low, and 2) to save up for spring water offensive that I might have described accurately in part 2, re-shaping the river to Ukraine's advantage better and more deniably than any barrage of HIMARS rockets could do.

Over the spring, David Helms and his sort would complain the Russians were again draining too much from the reservoir, and also not draining enough, letting it gow dangerously full. I've suggested the Russians increased their output in December to February to make room for anticipated spring flooding, once the dam and some related "safety valves" were deactivated, mostly in November,. And I've suggested they worked to increase the flow even more in March to June, trying to stave off the disaster. But it might be they did and could do nothing either way but let Ukraine pour in what it did and let those 4 floodgates keep pouring out what they could. 

revisiting what was plugged: In the last post I considered safety water release valves at the dam that were wrecked, jammed up, or otherwise deactivated in the months before the spring flood season / Ukrainian river offensive. In general, these are caused by violence that is "contested." Ukraine blames Russia for wrecking its own water-management capabilities with false-flag rocket attacks, as the Russian managers blame Ukrainian rocket attacks - just as alleged! 

Shipping lock: Several proudly admitted Ukrainian HIMARS rockets hit the bridge over the lock in late August, killing and wounding Russian soldiers as they crossed it. The bridge was so damaged it had to be replaced, in haste, with a new bridge supported by rubble that filled the lock, preventing water from escaping, by mid-late September at the latest.  

HPP: Sometime prior to a report of November 12: "numerous attacks by the Armed Forces of Ukraine" somehow made it so the hydroelectric plant was disabled, and would only be operable again "within a year." Water discharge from the plant is visible on Oct. 28, unclear on November 2 and seemingly absent from November 5 forward. 

Add July 1: By May 5, there were already fears the dam could collapse from overloading, that were just then mitigated by a floodgate of the power plant being opened.  

Reuters, May 5: "Renat Karchaa, an adviser to the general director of energy engineering firm Rosenergoatom, said specialists had begun discharging water from the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam on the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine, according to TASS. "A gate of the Kakhovka hydropower plant has been opened and repair works have begun at the Kakhovka canal. Pumps and pipes are being repaired. Water is being discharged. The risks of flooding have reduced considerably." The risk would be eliminated once water levels returned to normal, Karchaa said." That never happened, of course.

"He had earlier told TASS that a possible breach of the dam owing to high water levels could flood the cable line for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant further east and cause nuclear safety risks. Nearby towns could also be affected."

Checking satellite views, planet Labs May 3 seems to show muted discharge from the NW gates, but not jetting out, and maybe rolling towards the divider. Sentinel Hub may show the same on 4/24, 5/4, 5/6, but not on 5/19 or after. Sporadic lighter flow may appear back at least to March, but it changes in late April, and on 5/6 there seems to be a longer trail of proper flow, perhaps confirming Karchaa. Drone videos seem to show medium flow on 4/28, but weak to absent on 5/11. Was that floodagte closed again? Even when something went right, it somehow couldn't last.

Pumping stations that feed into the canal system. A short video on Twitter shows four of them, as did something else I saw. In my last post, I had the pumping stations mixed up. It's the further one at Liubymivka that was damaged in shelling during November, with a related Nov. 30 disaster that left the basement flooded and the plant inoperable. This fed canals to areas to the southeast - Melitopol, etc. (https://www.ukrinform. - https://investigator.org.ua) Where the shelling came from is the Russians, as these sources report, but the Russians occupying the site prevent an investigation, so it may be hard to tell the weapon and firing direction and such. The Russians occupying the plant blame Ukrainian shelling for all the damage, but I haven't seen their evidence. Visual: hard to say from the few photos shared in the links above. Some main pipes appear hit on the west side, so not from the east. Some windows blown out on the south side, I guess, could be from nearby shells arriving any direction. Anyway, this plant was unable to help relieve the pressure Ukraine would later pour on the reservoir.

There's a northern "Zaporizhzhia canal" I didn't see much about and that seems minor. And there's one also on the Ukrainian side - "Kryvyi Rih, water lift no. 1." On September 15 and November 3 last year, Russia was accused of shelling a dam and a "water infrastructure facility" in or near Kryvyi Rih. It's not clear if either means the relevant pumping station, or what it did or could do to help lessen the burden on the reservoir in the spring. (9/15 CNN - 11/3 CNN)

Finally, the southern station closest to the dam at Tavri'isk is apparently the main canal to Crimea, and was maybe operating the whole time. Possibly related claims: Feb 23: in #Tavriisk, a water pumping station was damaged by a mortar strike." March 3 - shelling of the city of Tavriisk and a "pumping station" or "a city water intake" suffered unspecified damage. (https://ria.ru/20230302/obstrel-1855477276.html - https://t.me/VGA_NovayaKahovka/10400 - https://t.me/newkaxovka/2429March 7: Water supply restored in Tavriysk  April 21: March 3 damage still being repaired. 

More shelling of Tavriisk was reported in May and June, but with no clear word I saw, even in the above, about the canal pumping station. So maybe it worked and the operators could drain the reservoir this way, but according to Helms, the reservoirs to the south were all "topped off" by early February (NPR, tweet), If so, they couldn't be of much help anyways in the terrible rise came entirely after this.  They could be overflooded to help some. As far as I know, they were. I might check if Helms noticed that and complained about the boundless Russian greed this showed...

A graphic for all this doesn't seem urgent. I'll finish it later. 

Otherwise, what the dam operators ("the Russians" or "occupiers") had left to mitigate the coming disaster was those four frontline floodgates, that perhaps could not be adjusted. They would let water run constantly from just a few spots, as the remaining, closed floodgates - on top of everything else that was made to fail - ensured that was all that could escape, that the filling rate would reach 100% full by May 8 and maintain it for one month. And this was the scene already by April 28 (from combined frames in this video): 

Gates 3, 5, 6 and 7 are still visibly sucking in water (5 perhaps less than the others) and mindlessly pouring it out the other side. The frothy discharge angles strangely towards the concrete flow guide or divider between the outflows for the floodgates and the power plant. On the right, an end piece of this divider has come loose at an angle, sometime since March 3, and the whole thing appears to tilt a bit towards the camera, as it has lost supports on this side. Then on June 1 or 2 supports for the curved roadway also collapsed, so they vanished into the river along with the road. This seems like severe erosion dangerously close to the dam - but erosion in what and how - is an important compound question best put in another post.

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