In a statement, the association praises New Jersey’s support for dam safety, including a rehabilitation funding programme providing US$15M for state projects and some US$95M in low interest loans for private and municipal owners. But, says ASDSO, more could have been done and it has called on all US states and federal government to implement regulation and policies to protect against similar dam failures and floods in the future.

Earlier this month, over a dozen dams in New Jersey failed causing significant damage to much of the state’s infrastructure and hundreds of homes. Dam failures have also hit Michigan and Mississippi recently.

“The failures of 13 July serve as a reminder that strong dam safety programmes can and do mitigate the effects of these types of incidents,” said ASDSO. “New Jersey maintains one of the best programmes in the nation and was therefore able to lessen the effects of the extraordinary rainfall by implementing plans and procedures developed to deal with such an event.”

Even with good dam safety programmes, making sure that dams are maintained, upgraded and repaired poses an uphill struggle for states, added the statement. According to ASDSO, upgrading or repairing all US non-federal dams that could potentially pose a risk to human life would land owners with a combined bill of over US$10B.

“Had an estimated US$5M in needed repairs to several of the failed dams been carried out prior to 12 July,” said the association, “the estimated US$50M flood damage figure might have been significantly reduced.”