American Dams Failures

Decent Essays
In the United States, the majority of dams are old and close to failing. In fact, the average age of the 82,000 dams monitored by the government in the US is 52 years old (ASCE). These dams were built years ago to now obsolete standards. There are many dams across the US that are currently listed as being in high or significant hazard or failing. It is vital to start rebuilding the dams in the United States before a catastrophic dam collapse occurs.

There are many dams that are currently in critical condition in the United States. A dam is defined in critical condition when a dam failure would cause loss of human life and large economic loss (FEMA). According to a study of dams by the American Society of Civil Engineers, “As of 2012,
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In certain areas, dams were built to low standards because there was no development beneath them. Now communities and cities have been built beneath these older dams and face a threat of being submerged if the dam were to fail. One of these dams is the Lewisville Lake dam. The Army Corp of Engineers finished building the Lewisville dam in 1955 and they are responsible for its upkeep. This dam is in critical condition and is labeled as the eighth most hazardous dam in the United States. This dam is currently holding back 2.5 billion tons of water and is only 34 miles upstream from Dallas, Texas. If the dam were to fail, an estimated 431,000 people would be at risk and there would be 21 billion dollars in property damage (Getschow). The amount of water released would put the city of Dallas 50 feet under water. This dam has been classified as in critical condition due to a sand boil that was spotted in 2015. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, “When flood waters remain high for a long time though, underseepage can increase in volume and velocity and begin the destructive process of moving sand from the foundation, through the ground, to the surface, forming ‘sand…show more content…
The removal of a dam may seem like a daunting task, but in many cases it is cheaper to remove the dam than it would be to repair the issues. The average dam has the design lifespan of 50 years. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, “The average age of our nation’s dams is 52 years. By 2020, 70% of the total dams in the United States will be over 50 years old” (ASCE). There is a large need for old dams to be removed and replaced with new dams built to current specifications. In order to replace these dams, state and federal governments need to provide a large amount of funding. ASCE has stated in their infrastructure report card, “The Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates that the total cost to rehabilitate the nation’s non-federaland federal dams is over $57 billion. To rehabilitate just those dams categorized as most critical, or high- hazard, would cost the nation $21 billion, a cost that continues to rise as maintenance, repair, and rehabilitation are delayed” (ASCE). With limited funding, dam owners have moved toward a risk based decision-making process. The funding for rebuilding dams has only been going towards dams that are in the high hazard category and are close to failing. This is a growing concern as only dams that are about to fail are getting repaired. The number of dams that are considered high risk is constantly
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