Failed Minnesota Dam One of Nearly 200 Across Midwest in ‘Poor’ Condition

"Especially in the Midwest, climate change presents a growing threat to the nation’s nearly 92,000 dams, many more than 100 years old, as heavy rainfall, flooding and other forms of extreme weather become more common and severe."

"ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota’s century-old Rapidan Dam captured the national spotlight last week when its partial failure destroyed a home and prompted county officials to demolish an adjacent store. Yet it’s just one of hundreds of dams across the Upper Midwest in similar or worse condition, according to an analysis of federal data by Inside Climate News.

The incident, which occurred amid days of historic flooding across the Midwest that left two people dead and broke records in at least 10 places, highlights the growing threat climate change poses to the country’s aging infrastructure as extreme weather becomes more common and severe.

State and federal officials have warned for years that the nation’s nearly 92,000 dams—many of them built in the early 1900s—are growing increasingly taxed by extreme weather, especially in the Midwest. The Fifth National Climate Assessment, released last year, found that annual precipitation increased by 5 to 15 percent across much of the Midwest in the decade leading up to 2021, compared to the previous decade. Some 30 dam failures or near failures have occurred across the Midwest since 2018, the assessment said.

Most of America’s dams are more than 60 years old, leading to complications like sediment build up. That was the case with the Rapidan Dam, roughly 90 miles southwest of the Twin Cities. Too much sediment caused the water to flow around the dam’s west side, eroding much of the land."

Kristoffer Tigue reports for Inside Climate News July 5, 2024.


"‘Not Prepared’: Why The Midwest Floods Are A Warning For The Nation" (Washington Post)

"Dams In Distress: Partial Failure In Minnesota Offers A Nationwide Warning" (NBC News)

"Live Near A Dam? It Could Be Crumbling, Threatening Homes And Lives As Heavy Rains Increase" (USA TODAY)

Source: Inside Climate News, 07/08/2024