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July 14, 2010 - ASCE Letter - FY 2011 buget for the National Dam Safety Program

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July 14, 2010

Chairman Frank Lautenberg
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security
324 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Lautenberg:

On behalf of the 144,000 members of the American Society of Civil Engineers, I am writing to respectfully request that the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security fully fund the National Dam Safety Program at $11million in the Fiscal Year 2011 Department of Homeland Security bill.

The National Dam Safety Program Act of 1996 (PL 104-303) created the first national program that focused on improving the safety of the nation’s dams. This small yet critical program provides much needed assistance to the state dam safety programs in the form of grant assistance, training and research; and through facilitating the exchange of technical information between federal dam safety partners and the states.

ASCE’s 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gave Dams in the United States a grade of “D.” By the year 2020, more than 85 percent of all dams in the United States will be more than 50 years old, the typical useful lifespan.

There are over 84,000 dams in the United States, but the responsibility of assuring their safety falls largely on the shoulders of the states, as they regulate 89% of the country’s dams. Because of limited staff and funding, most states are overwhelmed by that challenge. Currently states have identified over 4,000 dams as being deficient, or unsafe, and the number is expected to increase as dams age and downstream development continues.

The National Dam Safety Program has been very successful in assisting the state programs. Examples of success stories include Dambreak Analysis, Concrete Rehabilitation of Dams, Slope Stability of Dams, Earthquake Analysis, Emergency Action Planning and many others including recent training in Dam Site Security.

It is encouraging to see that appropriations last year fully funded the National Dam Safety Program for the first time and we urge Congress to once again appropriate full funding for the program.

Sincerely,

Brian Pallasch, Managing Director of Government Relations and Infrastructure Initiatives