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August 26, 2009

USA: Over Two Thousand Dams Near Population Centers Need Repair


More than 2,000 dams near population centers are in need of repair, according to statistics released this month by the Association of State Dam Safety Officials. [High hazard potential repairs are needed.]

The National Inventory of Dams (NID), which is maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), shows that the number of dams in the U.S. has increased to more than 85,000, but the federal government owns or regulates only 11% of those dams.

Responsibility for ensuring the safety of the rest of the nation’s dams falls to state dam safety programs. Many state dam safety programs do not have sufficient resources, funding, or staff to conduct dam safety inspections, to take appropriate enforcement actions, or to ensure proper construction by reviewing plans and performing construction inspections. For example, Texas has only 7 engineers and an annual budget of $435,000 to regulate more than 7,400 dams. Alabama does not have a dam safety program despite the fact that there are more than 2,000 dams in the state. And in some states many dams are specifically exempted from inspection by state law. In Missouri there are 740 high hazard potential dams that are exempted because they are less than 35 feet in height.

In 2009, the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) estimated that the total cost to repair the nation’s dams totaled $50 billion and the needed investment to repair high hazard potential dams totaled $16 billion. These estimates have increased significantly since ASDSO’s 2003 report, when the needed investment for all dams was $36 billion and the needed investment for high hazard potential dams was $10.1 billion.

The 2009 report noted an additional investment of $12 billion over 10 years will be needed to eliminate the existing backlog of 4,095 deficient dams. That means the number of high hazard potential dams repaired must be increased by 270 dams per year above the number now being repaired, at an additional annual cost of $850 million a year. To address the additional 2,276 deficient—but not high hazard—dams, an additional $335 million per year is required, totaling $3.4 billion over the next 10 years


History of Dam failures in the USA



20 megabyte, 168 page 2009 US Infrastructure Report



The five key solutions [from the infrastructure report] are:
* increase federal leadership in infrastructure;
* promote sustainability and resilience;
* develop federal, regional, and state infrastructure plans;
* address life cycle costs and ongoing maintenance;
* increase and improve infrastructure investment from all stakeholders.


RELATED READING
Deaths per terawatt hour for all energy sources

Russian dam blows a transformer

The Buffalo Creek Dam Accident:

The 15- to 20-foot black wave of water gushed at an average of 7 feet per second and destroyed one town after another. A resident of Amherstdale commented that before the water reached her town, "There was such a cold stillness. There was no words, no dogs, no nothing. It felt like you could reach out and slice the stillness." -- quote from Everything in Its Path, by Kai T. Erikson


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