I got my newsletter from the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) in the inbox today. This announcement was included:
KEY ALERT: Support Dam Rehabilitation Bill in the Senate
Please contact your Senator in support of the ASCE-supported Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act (H.R. 3224).
This legislation would provide up to $200 million over five years to address deficiencies in the nation's publicly owned non-federal dams. Major features of the bill include:
• Establishment of a program within the Federal Emergency Management Agency to fund dam rehabilitation and repairs.
• Enactment of a public fund to award grants for assistance to repair unsafe dams that are publicly-owned (state and local dams).
• Authorization of appropriation levels that will help rehabilitate publicly owned non-federal deficient dams.
The Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act was passed by the House of Representatives in October 2007 and needs only Senate approval to be sent to the President and signed into law.
Please call or email your Senators. Senate rules allow for quick consideration and passage of non-controversial bills under unanimous consent. It is our hope that H.R. 3224 will be brought up today or tomorrow under this arrangement. If it is not, the bill will likely die when Congress adjourns and will need to be reintroduced at the beginning of the 111th Congress in January 2009.
Please support prompt passage of the Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act (H.R. 3224). This legislation would provide $200 million over five years to make repairs to the nation's ailing publicly owned dams.
Aging dams often represent hidden hazards to communities that have grown up around them, and the Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates that $10 billion is needed over the next 12 years to address our most critical dams, both public and private.
With a shaky economy, we cannot afford to neglect our infrastructure any longer. Please support H.R. 3224 that will protect homes and livelihoods by making vital improvements to essential infrastructure.
Additional Background - Dams in Need of RepairThe Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act was originally introduced in the 110th Congress as H.R. 1098. The bill was reintroduced with minor changes as H.R. 3224 and passed by the full House in October 2007. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the bill on September 17, 2008.
Recent failures and extreme rainfalls have called attention to the vulnerability of dams and brought into tragic focus the potential consequences of aging and unsafe dams. Just this summer, the Redlands Dam in Arizona failed as a result of heavy rains, displacing the 400-member Havasupai Tribe and causing the evacuation of hundreds of campers and hikers in the Grand Canyon. The March 2006 failure of the Ka Loko Dam in Hawaii killed seven people and caused over $50 million in damage. The April 2007 failure of Rainbow Lake Dam in New Jersey resulted in the further failure of two smaller dams nearby. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates that $36.2 billion is needed to rehabilitate all dams across the nation, and $10.1 billion is needed over the next 12 years to address the most critical dams, both public and private, that pose a direct risk to human life should they fail. Needed repairs to publicly owned dams are estimated at $5.9 billion.
ASCE's 2005 Report Card for America's Infrastructure gives the condition of our nation's dams a grade of D, equal to the overall infrastructure grade. State dam safety programs have identified more than 3,300 "unsafe" dams, which have deficiencies that leave them more susceptible to failure, especially during large flood events or earthquakes. The number of unsafe dams will continue to increase until a funding source is created to repair them.
The federal government should bear some responsibility in repairing ailing dams as failures do not necessarily respect state and local boundaries. The proposed legislation would distribute funds to state dam safety agencies based on the number of high-hazard publicly owned non-federal dams in the state. A high-hazard dam is one whose failure would likely cause loss of life or severe property damage. The Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act would help fulfill this responsibility.
For Arizona residents, you can easily contact your Senator at this web address - http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?State=AZ. Of course one of them isn't very likely to show up for a vote.