An Associated Press analysis tallied more than 2,200 high-hazard dams in poor or unsatisfactory condition across the U.S. — up substantially from a similar AP review conducted three years ago. The actual number is likely even higher, although it’s unclear because some states don’t track such data and many federal agencies refuse to release details about their dams’ conditions.
The nation’s dams are on average over a half-century old and often present more of a hazard than envisioned when designed because homes, businesses or highways have cropped up below them. Meanwhile, a warming atmosphere can bring stronger storms with heavier rainfall that could overwhelm aging dams.
The $1 trillion infrastructure bill signed last year … will pump about $3 billion into dam-related projects, including hundreds of millions for state dam safety programs and repairs.
Yet it’s still just a fraction of the nearly $76 billion needed to fix the almost 89,000 dams owned by individuals, companies, community associations, state and local governments, and other entities besides the federal government, according to a report by the Association of State Dam Safety Officials.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lists about 92,000 dams in its nationwide database, most of which are privately owned and regulated by states. Dams are classified according to the risk posed by failure, ranging from low to significant to high. A high hazard means lives could be lost if the dam fails.