Dam Safety in the States

State Dam Safety Programs

States have permitting, inspection and enforcement authority for 77 percent of the 87,000 dams listed in the 2013 National Inventory of Dams.

More state and national statistics are available from the National Inventory of Dams.

Source: USACE - 2013 National Inventory of Dams

The vast majority of US dams are privately owned.

Source: USACE - 2013 National Inventory of Dams

State Program Resources

Total budgets for dam safety are fluctuating. Many state dam safety programs have experienced cuts in funding as state budgets struggle in general. Staffing has remained steady with an overall increase from 1999 to 2012. State by state statistics are available at 2012 State Dam Safety Program Statistics.

Building State Programs to Address Deficient Dams

The National Dam Safety Program, in cooperation with ASDSO, developed the Model State Dam Safety Program to assist state officials in initiating or improving their state programs. The model outlines the key components of an effective dam safety program and provides guidance on the development of more effective and sustainable state programs to minimize risks created by unsafe dams. It contains chapters on Legislative Authorities, Permitting, Inspection, Enforcement, Emergency Action Planning and Response, Education and Training, and Public Relations.

The table to the right presents the weighted average of state responses over time to a series of yes/no questions on the authorities for each chapter. The areas are listed and weighted by importance (weights indicated in parentheses). Higher percentages indicate greater alignment of the state programs with the model.

National Dam Safety Program Performance Measures Summary: From 1989 to 2012

Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) for High Hazard Potential Dams

  • Nationally the percentage of high hazard potential dams with an EAP has increased from 35% to 69% for the period 1999 to 2012.
  • Nearly every state has shown improvement in the number of EAPs for HH dams with no state showing a significant decrease. Many states had increases of several hundred to several thousand percent.
  • Nationally for the period 1999 to 2012 the average of individual state increases in EAPs was 534%; Hawaii had the greatest state increase of 5700% going from 2 EAPs in 1999 to 116 in 2012. In just the last five reporting years (2008-2012) the average of state increases was 63% (as an example, Texas EAPs increased from 163 in 2008 to 803 in 2012, an increase of almost 400%).
  • In 2012 twenty-three states reported percentages of high hazard potential dams with an EAP at 90% or greater, up from just ten in 1999.
  • There is still room for improvement with ten states reporting less than 50% of high hazard potential dams with an EAP.

Inspections of High Hazard Potential Dams

  • The chart to the right shows the percentage of inspections completed for high hazard potential dams based on the inspection frequency and schedule due for a particular state. Inspection percentages may vary above and below 100% for any given year based on a state's inspection frequency and scheduling (i.e., a state with an inspection frequency of every two years might inspect more than half of the dams in the first year, or greater than 100%, in order to take advantage of their close proximity).
  • The national average for the inspection of high hazard potential dams has remained relatively steady over the reporting period of 1998 to 2012.
  • In comparing 2012 to 1998, 35 states reported inspection activity for high hazard potential dams equal to or greater than 100% of the 1998 level with an additional eight states at 75% or greater (percentages in the range of 75% and above would likely represent no significant decrease in inspection activity due to scheduling fluctuations).

Identification/Remediation of Deficient High Hazard Potential Dams

  • Increased inspection efforts by the state programs have resulted in the significant increase in the number of identified deficient high hazard potential dams. The fact that there was not a corresponding large increase in the number of high hazard potential dams remediated shows the need for increased enforcement efforts by states and for new rehabilitation and repair funding sources.
  • In 2009 the NID began collecting condition rating data on high hazard potential dams. Those with Poor or Unsatisfactory ratings are considered in need of remediation. For the 2013 NID update 76% of state-regulated high hazard potential dams were rated. States voluntarily submit this data and the number of dams not rated continues to decrease.
  • From 2009 to 2013 there was a 27% increase (34% to 61%) in dams with either a Satisfactory or Fair rating. The percentage of dams with condition ratings of Poor and Unsatisfactory (those in need of remediation) increased from 7% to 15% as more dams were rated.

*2010 & 2013 data from NID condition assessment with only 66% (2010) & 76% (2013) of State Regulated HHP dams being reported. Prior years’ data was anecdotal totals reported by each state to ASDSO. The condition assessment field, instituted by the NID in 2009, will provide more accurate information on remediation needs than the anecdotal totals as the states report condition assessments for all HHP dams in coming years.

Summary of National State Dam Safety Program Performance Statistics

2012 State Dam Safety Program Statistics

More state and national statistics are available from the National Inventory of Dams.

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