The Power of Dams: Marking National Dam Safety Awareness Day

Tina McMartin

Today, Freese and Nichols joins the dam safety industry today to raise awareness about National Dam Safety Awareness Day. 

National Dam Safety Awareness Day commemorates the 1889 failure of South Fork Dam near Johnstown, Pennsylvania, that claimed more than 2,200 lives and led to the public awareness of the importance of dam safety.

The Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) calls May 31 a day for “remembering the lessons learned from past dam failures, pushing for strong dam safety programs, investing in America’s critical infrastructure and rededicating ourselves to the effective public-private partnerships that work to keep America’s dams safe, operational and resilient.” ASDSO urges individuals and communities to understand the benefits and risks associated with dams.

With more than 90,000 dams across the United States that provide water supply, recreation and hydropower benefits, they are vital to the nation’s infrastructure.

But even with these benefits, much of the U.S. dam infrastructure is aging and requires rehabilitation to meet current dam safety requirements. The American Society of Civil Engineers2017 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gave the nation’s dams a grade of “D.”

Given their importance, a substantial investment is required to bring our aging dams into compliance with current safety standards. In the past two years, dam incidents have been even more prevalent in the news: the spillway failure at Oroville Dam in California, Spencer Dam failure in Nebraska, the tailings dam failure in Brazil, and recent gate failure at Dunlap Dam in Texas have all received national attention. These incidents emphasize the need for attention to and investment in our aging infrastructure in a changing climate.

Help us spread awareness of the benefits and risks associated with dams.