America’s Aging Dams Are in Need of Repair

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After two weeks that saw evacuations near Oroville, Calif., and flooding in Elko County, Nev., America’s dams are showing their age.

Nearly 2,000 state-regulated high-hazard dams in the United States were listed as being in need of repair in 2015, according to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials. A dam is considered “high hazard” based on the potential for the loss of life as a result of failure.

By 2020, 70 percent of the dams in the United States will be more than 50 years old, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

“It’s not like an expiration date for your milk, but the components that make up that dam do have a lifespan.” said Mark Ogden, a project manager with the Association of State Dam Safety Officials.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers keeps an inventory of 90,000 dams across the country, and more than 8,000 are classified as major dams by height or storage capacity, according to guidelines established by the United States Geological Survey.

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One thought on “America’s Aging Dams Are in Need of Repair

  1. As is typical of large-scale, government sponsored projects, plenty of funding is allocated to build dams and very little thought is given to operations and maintenance. Limited life of dams should be obvious, but it’s not necessarily so. I’m guessing that there will be more of a call to build more dams than to improve or maintain what is already in place. And more dams won’t alleviate the larger flood events that are a predictable part of climate change, even while their frequency and occurrence is completely unpredictable. More dams may capture the small and medium sized flood events, but it will make the larger floods worse. A great example of this phenomenom can be observed on the Yangtze River system in China. Three Gorges Dam was offered as, among other things, the solution to flooding in the middle and lower river. And since it was built, nearly 20 additional large dams have been built on the river displacing millions of people, severely damagin the overall river ecosystem, and increasing, not alleviating the flooding, You can be sure that there will be a clamor to build a multitude of new dams here in the U.S. to deal with all the water that is wasted running downstream when it could be stored in a reservoir where it will be lost in significant amounts to evaporation.

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