Senators Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), John Boozman (R-AR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced the Dam Safety Act of 2012 on June 29. The last bill authorizing spending for the national dam safety program expired on September 30, 2011. The National Dam Safety Program is administered by the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Under FEMA’s leadership, the National Dam Safety Program is dedicated to protecting the lives of American citizens and their property from the risks associated with the development, operation, and maintenance of America’s dams.
The new Senate bill will reauthorize the National Dam Safety Program for Fiscal Years 2012 through 2016 at $13.9 million per year including:
- $9.2 million per year split among the states, based on the relative number of dams per state, to make improvements in programs identified in the National Dam Safety Program Act;
- $1.45 million per year in research funds to identify more effective techniques to assess, construct, and monitor dams;
- $1 million per year for a nationwide public awareness and outreach program;
- $750,000 per year in training assistance to state engineers; and
- $500,000 per year for the National Inventory of Dams.
ASCE has been a long time advocate for the National Dam Safety Program. Our nation’s 85,000 dams have the average age of just over 51 years, while nearly 14,000 dams are classified as high hazard. In the 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure the nation’s dams received a grade of D and it was estimated that over $12 billion would be needed to bring our dams into a state of good repair.
ASCE is working closely with House and Senate offices to introduce a Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act, which would provide states funding to repair, replace, or rehabilitate high hazard, non-federal dams. The proposed legislation would provide $200 million over five years to fix those dams in the greatest need.