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July 21, 2010 - ASCE Letter - Dam Rehibilitation and Repair Act

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July 21, 2010

Chairman James Oberstar                                        Ranking Member John Mica
Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure          Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
2165 Rayburn House Office Building                          2163 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515                                             Washington, DC 20515
  
Chairman Eleanor Holmes Norton                              Ranking Member Mario Diaz-Balart
Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public       Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public
Buildings, and Emergency Management                     Buildings, and Emergency Management
585 Ford House Office Building                                 592 Ford House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515                                             Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Oberstar, Ranking Member Mica, Chairman Holmes Norton, and Ranking Member Diaz – Balart:

The American Society of Civil Engineers would like to request that the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee take quick action on the Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act. H.R. 1770, would amend the National Dam Safety Program Act to provide a modest, yet critical, $200 million over five years for repairs, rehabilitation, or the removal of non-federal, publicly owned, high hazard dams across the United States. A version of this bill passed in the 110th Congress with a vote of 263 – 102.

According to the National Inventory of Dams, there are over 85,000 dams in the United States. These dams are a vital part of our nation’s aging infrastructure and provide enormous benefits to the majority of Americans including drinking water, flood protection, renewable hydroelectric power, navigation, irrigation, and recreation. Yet these critical daily benefits provided by the nation’s dams are inextricably linked to the potential consequences of a dam failure if the dam is not maintained, unable to safely impound water, safely pass large flood events or safely withstand earthquake events.

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gave the nation’s dams a grade of “D” and the number of dams determined to be unsafe or deficient has risen from 3,500 in 2005 to 4,095 in 2007. Meanwhile, the Association of State Dam Safety Officials has estimated that it would cost more than $10 billion over the next 12 years to upgrade the physical condition of all critical non-federal dams — dams that pose a direct risk to human life should they fail. H.R. 1770 begins the process of addressing this important problem.

The legislation currently has strong bipartisan support within and beyond the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Members of Congress recognize that the federal government should bear some responsibility in repairing ailing dams as failures do not necessarily respect state and local boundaries and the proposed legislation would distribute that funding to those dams in greatest need. We hope that we can see this critical legislation come to the floor in the 111th Congress. If you have any questions in the meantime please contact me at bpallasch@asce.org or 202-789-7850.

Sincerely,

Brian T. Pallasch
Managing Director of Government Relations and Infrastructure Initiatives