"As Dams Burst, Trump Seeks To Gut Key Safety Regime"

"In Northern California, a string of "atmospheric rivers" rained down on the Oroville Dam last winter. The spillway at the nation's tallest dam failed, forcing the evacuation of nearly 200,000 people.

In Houston, Hurricane Harvey overwhelmed two dams in late August. "Get out now!" Harris County officials urged residents on Twitter as water overflowed spillways.

In northwest Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria strained the 90-year-old Guajataca Dam. Spillway failure. 70,000 people ordered to evacuate.

This year's unrelenting weather has laid bare the shortcomings of the nation's more than 90,500 dams, most of which are more than 50 years old. The vast majority — more than 87,000 — are owned by private entities, local governments or public utilities that are regulated by a patchwork of state agencies of widely varying strength.

Even small dams pose major risks when hit with powerful storms, experts say, compounding weather-related disasters. That's led to calls for more federal involvement and guidance in studying how extreme weather and climate change will affect dams.

"The prospects for extreme weather events — 500-year events, 1,000-year events — have changed the calculus and require that we relook at the design parameters and operations parameters at existing facilities," said Michael Connor, deputy secretary of the Interior Department from 2014 to 2017.

The Bureau of Reclamation has a program designed to do exactly that.

President Trump wants to zero out the Reclamation program's budget. Seemingly because it grew out of the Obama administration's climate change adaptation strategy, the Trump's 2018 budget proposal calls for cutting the bureau's "resilient infrastructure investments.""

Jeremy P. Jacobs reports for Greenwire October 23, 2017.

Source: Greenwire, 10/24/2017