On May 31, individuals and organizations across the country recognized National Dam Safety Awareness Day. This event is held each year in memory of the May 31, 1889 South Fork Dam failure in Johnstown, PA – the nation’s worst dam failure. Today, many organizations used the day as an opportunity to look back on the category that earned a “D” grade in the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card and learn from past dam failures. It was also an opportunity to look to the future of dam safety and better understand how our country can improve dam safety programs and the impact that investment in this infrastructure category could have.
Across the Country
In California, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) took advantage of National Dam Safety Awareness Day to remind people about the risk associated with living near a dam. Americans, and Californians in particular, can recall the evacuations in February of 2017 when the Oroville Dam Spillway failed. To avoid another disaster like this one, PG&E spokesperson, Paul Moreno said it is important for people to have evacuation plans.
In Michigan, the City of Lansing’s Office of Emergency Management held a safety demonstration near the North Lansing Dam. Emergency Manager Mike Tobin discussed the danger of dams and the importance of safety when it comes to these infrastructure systems.
Dam Safety Programs
In general, most states have a dam safety program that is responsible for safety inspections, maintenance, and the creation and implementation of emergency action plans (EAPs). However, the exception to this is Alabama. In the 2015 Report Card for Alabama’s Infrastructure, the state received the only “Incomplete” grade given on a Report Card. Of the estimated 2,200 dams in the state, only about 2% are being inspected and have EAPs. This is the only state in the country without a State Dam Safety Program and an inventory of dams, putting residents in surrounding areas at risk.
How You Can Help
To further national dam safety programs, ASCE has been advocating in favor of the Water Resources Development Act 2018 (WRDA) and the National Dam Rehabilitation Program. WRDA 2018 has been marked up by both the House and Senate and is expected to advance to a vote by the full chamber next week. Show your support for WRDA 2018 and for the National Dam Rehabilitation Program to receive funding by contacting your member of Congress today!