On 22 January this year, USACE lowered the dam lake level to reduce the risk of dam failure during the ongoing, accelerated efforts to fix the project.

This is the first peer review report on a high-risk USACE dam, and it provides important input regarding current USACE efforts to investigate, monitor and modify Wolf Creek dam.

Peer review is a critical component of both the USACE Dam Safety Program and USACE’s 12 Actions for Change, released in August 2006. The 12 Actions emphasize the need to employ dynamic peer review of projects with potential of high consequences; employ risk-based concepts in construction; and effectively communicate risk with the public.

‘Public safety is our number one priority,’ said Steve Stockton, USACE deputy director of Civil Works. ‘The dynamic, independent review is integral to our 12 Actions for Change and provides additional depth to our assessment and analysis of hazards posed by our nation’s aging flood and storm damage reduction infrastructure.’

In 2005 and 2006 USACE performed an initial screening of more than130 dam projects, which represent approximately 20% of its 610 dams. The screened dams were believed to be the highest risk among those USACE owns and operates. The risk-informed screening process considered performance and failure consequences, allowed USACE to prioritise its dams nationwide, and produced life risk and economic risk information. USACE’s goal is to screen the remainder of its dams by the end of fiscal 2009.

As a result, USACE identified six dam projects that are critically near failure or have extremely high life and/or economic risk, and has made them a national priority for funding, studies, investigations and remedial work. USACE has implemented interim risk reduction measures, which include inspections, monitoring, pool restrictions, public awareness and additional instrumentation at each of the six.

The USACE dams identified as highest risk and highest priority are:

* Wolf Creek dam, located in Kentucky

* Center Hill dam, located in Tennessee

* Martis Creek and Isabella dams, both located in California

* Clearwater dam, located in Missouri

* Herbert Hoover Dike, located in Florida

All dams determined to be of highest risk will undergo a dynamic peer review by an independent external panel to ensure USACE is taking the best approach to reduce risks to the public. USACE employs independent project reviews to provide additional insight to assist with its dam safety management and programming decisions.

USACE owns and operates 610 dams that serve a variety of purposes including navigation, flood control, water supply, irrigation, hydropower, recreation, environmental enhancement, and combinations of these purposes. USACE’s primary objective in its Dam Safety Program is to maintain public safety by making sure its dams do not present unacceptable risks to the public.

The Dam Safety Program uses a risk-informed strategy to:

* Prioritise dam safety studies, investigations and remedial fixes.

* Prioritise program funding.

* Manage and buy down risk with a cost-effective approach.

* Use risk management in the routine aspects of the program.

* Be situationally aware of the risks posed by USACE dams.

USACE asked an independent external panel of experts to review and assess these six dams and the panel’s assessment of the remaining projects is ongoing. USACE will continue to actively work with state and local emergency managers to ensure emergency notification plans for communities affected are in place.

The Wolf Creek Dam Consensus Report, Engineering Risk and Reliability Analysis, can be found at http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/WolfCreek/.