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March 7, 2011 - ASCE Letter - Small Watershed Dam Rehabilitation Program

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The Honorable Harry Reid                  The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader                                 Minority Leader
United States Senate                         United States Senate 
Washington, D.C. 20510                    Washington D.C. 20510 

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) requests that the fiscal year 2011 continuing resolution reinstate funding for the Small Watershed Dam Rehabilitation Program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Senate continuing resolution that was unveiled last week zeros out funding for the nation’s only dam rehabilitation program, setting a precedent which threatens public safety.

The Small Watershed Rehabilitation program has successfully been in existence since 2000. The legislation provides authorization for the USDA to assist local communities with rehabilitation of aging flood control dams, which were constructed with USDA assistance. Therefore, this important piece of legislation provides a proactive approach to address public health and safety needs before a tragic dam failure occurs. Sponsors across the country have begun rehabilitating high hazard aging dams, but funding and assistance must be available in the future to continue the work that is necessary to keep thousands safe.

Since the inception of the program, the Natural Resources Conservation Service has initiated 163 watershed rehabilitation projects across the country, including 77 completed rehabilitation projects and 81 projects either in the planning, design or construction phase. However, more than 1,000 watershed dams across the nation will need rehabilitation in just the next five years at the cost of over $570 million.

The need for watershed projects is critical and the need for watershed program work is also increasing. By providing funding and technical assistance in rehabilitating high priority aging flood control dams, the federal government ensures that some of those aging dams, which are most at risk of failure, remain safe and continue to provide benefits for another 100 years.

ASCE urges Congress to reinstate funding for the Small Watershed Dam Rehabilitation program in the fiscal year 2011 continuing resolution. This small, but vital program provides funding for much needed repairs to the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure and it would set an alarming precedent if no longer supported.

Sincerely,

Brian Pallasch, Managing Director Government Relations and Infrastructure Initiatives