According to a recent report released by the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO), the cost to rehabilitate the nation’s non-federal dams is estimated to be $157.5 billion. 

The report – The Cost of Rehabilitating Dams in the U.S.: A Methodology and Estimate – is based on the actual costs of dam rehabilitation for non-federal dam repairs over the past ten years, as well as estimated costs for known upcoming projects. The estimate includes nationwide cost data for more than 500 projects, including dam removals, with project costs ranging from $10,000 for small projects to more than $500 million for large complex projects.

The report also estimates that the cost to rehabilitate only the most critical dams is $34.1 billion. 

Two years ago, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act provided more than $4 billion towards dam rehabilitation. However, ASDSO’s report highlights the need for ongoing investment as the $4 billion allocation is just a small step towards addressing the nation’s backlog of dam rehabilitation projects.

Sharon Tapia, a member of ASDSO's task force, emphasized the urgent need for funding, saying: “To ensure the safety of our nation’s dams, we must maintain high funding levels to address the thousands of dams needing rehabilitation. We cannot return to previous funding levels, typically less than one percent annually of the investment made in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act.”

The need for rehabilitation arises as dams age, technical standards and techniques improve, and downstream populations and land use change. The costs of rehabilitation are rising significantly due to a combination of factors, including escalated costs for construction materials and labor, as well as the increased breadth of current engineering studies and analyses. Additionally, the overall number of dams needing rehabilitation has increased due to the identification of deficiencies outpacing the completion of rehabilitation projects. Funding and permitting constraints contribute significantly to the slower rate of completion.