TROY GRIGGS, GREGOR AISCH and SARAH ALMUKHTAR write in today’s NY Times:
“After two weeks that saw evacuations near Oroville, Calif., and flooding in Elko County, Nev., America’s dams are showing their age.
Nearly 2,000 state-regulated high-hazard dams in the United States were listed as being in need of repair in 2015, according to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials. A dam is considered “high hazard” based on the potential for the loss of life as a result of failure.
By 2020, 70 percent of the dams in the United States will be more than 50 years old, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.
“It’s not like an expiration date for your milk, but the components that make up that dam do have a lifespan.” said Mark Ogden, a project manager with the Association of State Dam Safety Officials.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers keeps an inventory of 90,000 dams across the country, and more than 8,000 are classified as major dams by height or storage capacity, according to guidelines established by the United States Geological Survey.
Dam failures can have
Two weeks ago, heavy rains caused the Twentyone Mile Dam in Nevada to burst, resulting in flooding, damaged property and closed roads throughout the region.
The earthen dam, built in the early 1900s and less than 50 feet tall, is one of more than 60,000 “low hazard” dams, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Typically, failure of a low hazard dam would cause property damage, but it would most likely not kill anyone.
What Happened at the Oroville Dam
Built in the 1960s and more than 16 times the height of the Nevada dam, Oroville was listed as a high hazard dam. Had it not been for the speed of the response last week, there could have been severe flooding of the surrounding area.
“The larger dams are being watched very carefully. The smaller dams don’t enjoy that level of scrutiny,” Mr. Ogden said.
The U.S. would need to spend billions
to repair public and private dams.
In 2016, the Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimated that it would cost $60 billion to rehabilitate all the dams that needed to be brought up to safe condition, with nearly $20 billion of that sum going toward repair of dams with a high potential for hazard.”
Read the complete article with charts and maps at the link. Sure seems like this would be a better way to spend our money and create meaningful jobs for U.S. workers than building an expensive, impractical, unneeded, and sure to be ineffective border wall.
Why not create some “win-win” situations, rather than provoking confrontation, controversy, and potential litigation at every turn? As the full article points out, there already is some pending legislation that, while not solving the entire program, would be a start on both job creation and improving the infrastructure. And, fixing dams would not provoke Mexico, Canada, the EU, China, or anyone else.