Following 14 Dam Collapses in South Carolina, Maloney Urges for Passage of His Bill to Maintain and Repair Hazardous Dams
Washington, DC — Following the collapse of 14 dams in South Carolina after heavy rains, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), joined by representatives from the Association of State Dam Safety Officials and the American Society of Civil Engineers, called for passage of his legislation to fund critical dam repairs and safety upgrades. One high-hazard dam outside of Columbia, SC had last been inspected in 2000, despite being equired to receive inspections every three years according to Army Corps records.
The Hudson Valley is home to over 800 dams, and nearly 100 dams known as “high hazard” whose failure would pose a serious risk to the economy and well-being of communities and families. During Hurricane Irene, dams at the Warwick Reservoir, as well as dams in the towns of Deerpark, Blooming Grove and Tuxedo, prompted officials to evacuate neighborhoods in the potential path of flooding. Maloney’s legislation would create a program to provide grant assistance to states to establish routine - yet critically necessary – maintenance plans for dams, and to rehabilitate dams that fail to meet minimum safety standards.
“It should not take a tragedy to recognize that our dams urgently need upgrades and regular inspection,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. “My bill would invest in regular inspections and critical upgrades to aging dams like the 100 high-hazard dams in the Hudson Valley. We must make sure that families and business owners who live and work nearby are kept safe.”
“The flooding event in South Carolina this week and subsequent dam failures highlight the importance of strong state dam safety programs and the assistance that the National Dam Safety Program provides. Proper inspection and timely remediation and repair of deficient dams helps to prevent dam failures and proper emergency preparedness can limit loss of life and property damage when dams are threatened and fail,” said Mark Ogden from the Association of State Dam Safety Officials.
“Dams received a ‘D’ grade in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure in part because of the backlog of needs to repair aging high-hazard dams,” said Casey Dinges, senior managing director for public affairs, ASCE. “As the nation’s 84,000 dams continue to age, investment will be crucial to save lives and protect our economy, as dam failure is a risk to public safety and can cost our economy millions of dollars in damages.”
Rep. Maloney’s Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act was introduced in May, and would provide grant assistance to states to make critical safety upgrades and rehabilitate dams that fail to meet minimum safety standards. This program would only focus grant dollars on the most critical publicly-owned dams across the country, with 2/3 of funds going to states with the highest number of high hazard dams. This would be a matching program with 75% federal funds and 25% matched with state or local funds, and the program would provide $800 million in grants over 5 years. States can only use the funds for repairing and rehabilitating publically-owned dams.
Rep. Maloney also passed his Dam Safety Act of 2013 as part of in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014. This bill renews the federal commitment to addressing the growing safety concerns caused by our nation’s aging dam infrastructure by reauthorizing the National Dam Safety Program (NDSP) The program provides grants to state to improve their dam safety programs through inspection, training, technical assistance, and research. Multiple states have used the grant funds to develop Graphic Information Systems (GIS) to identify the locations of their dams and map the areas below the dams that would flood in the event of a failure, which is useful in developing evacuation planning. States like New York rely on the National Dam Safety Program to support their own dam safety programs.
New York State has 8th most high hazard dams in the country with a total of 403, with nearly 100 of those dams in the Hudson Valley. The average age of America’s over 84,000 dam is 52 years old, but in New York State, the average age is 69 years old. At the time that many of these dams were constructed they were low-hazard dams which were protecting relatively undeveloped areas. Since that time America’s population has grown and many of these areas have become increasingly developed. America’s dams continue to age and the number of high-hazard dams, where the loss of life is probable in the event of dam failure, is increasing.