Responding to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s recent announcement that it will provide US$225M in grants to US states to increase protection from acts of terrorism, the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) is calling for states to earmark a portion of these grant funds for dam security upgrades.

Meeting at the Dam Safety 2002 conference in September, the 50 state dam safety program representatives passed a resolution that details the issue and the urgent need for security upgrades related to dams.

  ‘Dams have repeatedly been the focus of terrorist threats,’ said incoming ASDSO President Doug Johnson. ‘It is incumbent on federal, state and local emergency responders to recognise the need to include dams in the initiative to protect critical infrastructure across the country.’ States currently shoulder the responsibility for regulating the safety of approximately 95% of the 78,000-plus dams in the US.

  After 9/11, it became evident that many major dams in the US were potential targets, and that water supply reservoirs behind many dams were the focus of potential contamination. Yet, this threat goes beyond high profile federal dams, such as Hoover and Grande Coulee, currently receiving national attention.

Of the 78,000 dams listed in the National Inventory of Dams, 10,000 are considered ‘high hazard potential’ structures, meaning that their failure would likely result in loss of life and significant downstream property damage.

Only 9% of this total are regulated or owned by the federal government, leaving the responsibility for assuring the safety of the vast majority (70,000) of US dams under the authority of the states.