“In the West, our dams are aging and need to be updated immediately in order to keep Americans safe and keep up with the growing water demands of local communities,” said Barrasso. “I’m pleased to work with Rep. Valadao to address this important issue. Our bill will give federal agencies the tools they need to repair our aging water infrastructure and expand water storage in states across the West that desperately need it.”
The Bureau of Reclamation is responsible for maintaining over 400 dams in the Western United States; 366 of those would likely cause loss of life if they were to fail. Approximately 50 percent of these dams were built between 1900 and 1950, with many of them are aging past their life expectancy. In order to avoid dam failures, which would threaten lives and property of downstream populations, significant investment and regular maintenance is necessary.
Under current law, the Bureau of Reclamation may only identify dam repairs and modifications which result from “new hydrologic or seismic data” or those actions that are “deemed necessary for safety purposes.” In addition, the Secretary is authorized to only examine solutions that will address the specific problem, meaning repairs or modifications resulting from normal deterioration or lack of maintenance are prohibited.
The Safety of Dams Act of 1978 needs to be updated to provide additional value for the American public. The Dam Authorization, Maintenance and Safety Act, authorizes the Secretary to evaluate multiple project benefits, including increased water storage, along with any corrective actions necessary to increase dam safety during the Safety of Dams process.