The following is a statement by Dennis D. Truax, President, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE):
Washington, DC. — Nationwide, more than 92,000 dams protect communities across the country, providing numerous services including irrigation, water conservation, and flood protection. Advocating for the safety, robustness, and sustainability of our nation’s dams is a top priority for ASCE as we recognize May 31 as National Dam Safety Awareness Day.
National Dam Safety Awareness Day is observed in remembrance of the “Johnstown Flood” on May 31, 1889. Failures of the South Fork Dam near Johnstown, PA, resulted in the death of more than 2,200 people. This tragedy serves as an illustration of the critical importance of effectively maintaining and managing our nation’s dams and ensuring that adequate dam safety measures remain in place to avoid these preventable tragedies.
ASCE’s 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gave the nation’s dams a “D” grade. Of the nation’s 92,000 dams, more than 15,000 are classified as having “high hazard potential”, meaning that dam failure would result in the loss of life. While increased state investment in dam safety programs has allowed for better assessment of dams and the ability to identify rehabilitation needs as well as potential hazards, increased federal investment is still needed to ensure the safety of dams nationwide.
Programs like the National Dam Safety Program and the High Hazard Potential Dam Rehabilitation Grant Program provide states with needed resources to conduct assessments and inspections, support state program staffing needs, and make needed repairs to faltering dams. Unfortunately, these programs are drastically underfunded on a yearly basis.
To address the needs and challenges faced by the nation’s dams, Congress must take action to provide robust support for dam safety programs including full funding for the National Dam Safety Program and the High Hazard Potential Dam Rehabilitation Grant Program. Congress should also take swift action to reauthorize the National Dam Safety Program, which is set to expire at the end of FY 2023.
ASCE looks forward to working with Congress and the administration in the coming months to improve the safety and condition of the nation’s dams and serve as a resource in advancing that goal.
About the American Society of Civil Engineers
Founded in 1852, the American Society of Civil Engineers represents more than 150,000 civil engineers worldwide and is America's oldest national engineering society. ASCE works to raise awareness of the need to maintain and modernize the nation's infrastructure using sustainable and resilient practices, advocates for increasing and optimizing investment in infrastructure, and improve engineering knowledge and competency. For more information, visit www.asce.org or www.infrastructurereportcard.org and follow us on Twitter, @ASCETweets and @ASCEGovRel.