Steel dams were an experiment in dam construction that had a very short life in the United States. Steel dams work under the premise that steel construction offers substantial savings in material and labor costs compared to concrete or masonry construction. The Redridge dam was relatively cheap to build, costing only $150,000. The dam also took very little time to build, construction lasting only a year. A standard type dam on this river would have cost more to build and taken much longer to complete.
These costs and time advantages are due to how steel dams work. Unlike conventional dams, which rely on blocking the river with a thick concrete wall, steel dams use a thing piece of metal placed on an angle against the river. Much like a lean-to shack, the wall is held up by a series of beams and struts that sit on a thick concrete foundation. The water pushes against the steel wall ( trying to flatten it against the river bed ) while the struts hold it in place.
While in theory the dams work as well as standard dams ( the Redridge never failed during its almost 30 years of operation ) the long term success is not known. Of the three steel dams ever built, one failed a year after completion. The other two were in operation only 30 or so years, hardly a long enough time to determine their sustainability. The yearly maintenance required on these dams ( due to rust issues ) make long term operation costly and uncertain. Because of these and other issues, steel dams never took off in the US. This makes the Redridge Dam the largest of its type ever built in this country, or ever will be built.