The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has given dams in the US a ‘D’ grade on its 2005 report card for US infrastructure.
The low grade, endorsed by the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO), is based on a lack of funding for dam maintenance and rehabilitation, the increase in the number of high hazard potential dams and inadequately funded and staffed state dam safety programmes.
The ASCE says that the number of unsafe dams has risen 33% since 1998, from 9281 to 10,213, with 1046 in North Carolina alone. Furthermore, states presently report more than 3500 ‘unsafe’ dams, which have deficiencies that leave them more susceptible to failure.
Many states have large numbers of unsafe dams, including Pennsylvania (725), New Jersey (583), and New Hampshire (357). Many state agencies do not report statistics on unsafe dams; therefore the actual number is potentially much higher. The ASCE says $US10.1B is needed over 12 years to refurbish all critical, non-federal dams in the country.
Specific recommendations supported by the ASCE and the ASDSO include the establishment of comprehensive and fully funded dam safety programmes in all 50 states, the foundation of a federal programme to provide grant assistance to states for the rehabilitation and repair of deficient dams and the reauthorisation of the National Dam Safety Programme Act in 2006.
‘The aging of our nation’s dams calls for increasingly stringent attention to their safety,’ said ASDSO president Meg Galloway. ‘Deteriorating dams pose a threat not only to human life, but also to communities who rely on them for various needs, such as domestic water supply, hydroelectricity, irrigation, recreation and more.’
The ASCE’s report card grades the US’ infrastructure in 15 areas, awarding a grade on a scale from A to I then giving an overall average mark. As well as dams, the areas include bridges, drinking water, hazardous waste, roads and wastewater. The grades are defined as follows: ‘A’, exceptional; ‘B’, good; ‘C’, mediocre; ‘D’, poor; ‘F’, failing and ‘I’, incomplete.
The last time the ASCE graded the US’ Infrastructure it awarded a ‘D+’ grade on its report card in 2001. It says the total investment needed (over five years) is US$1.6T.