Dam Safety

September 26, 2001


The Bureau of Reclamation announced laconically Sept. 12 that it had stepped up security at Hoover, Glen Canyon, and Grand Coulee dams. Historically, catastrophic dam failures have been responsible for some very large death tolls. Dam failure caused the Johnstown (PA) flood of 1889, which killed 2,200. Dams also play a key role in reducing flood fatalities. Today in the United States, there are many dams in unsafe structural condition, and many of those are upstream of vulnerable populated areas. There is a U.S. dam safety program, but critics think it needs strengthening. The National Dam Safety Program Act expires in Sept. 2002.

What dams are near you? Are they upstream of populated areas? Have they been inspected and rated recently? Which are the high-hazard dams in your state? Do they have emergency action plans? How does your state measure up to the Model State Dam Safety Program? See FEMA Report.