Capito and Reed Seek to Help States Improve Dams Safety

Bipartisan bill would help states and local communities repair & maintain most vulnerable dams

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an effort to protect the public by preventing dam failures and improving dam safety in communities across the country, U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) are introducing the High Hazard Potential Small Dam Safety Act. This bipartisan legislation seeks to provide federal grant assistance for the rehabilitation and repair of non-federal high hazard potential dams.

Dams play an important role with respect to our water supply, flood control, recreation and other community uses. High hazard potential dams are those dams where failure is probable to cause loss of human life and endanger population centers and ecosystems, especially in periods of extreme weather and flooding. According to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO), the number of high-hazard potential dams increased nationally from 9,281 in 1998 to more than 14,700 in 2013.

Currently, there is no federal program to assist states with the repair or removal of non-agricultural, non-hydroelectric, non-federal high hazard potential small dams. There are programs to help address dams built by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but this leaves many dams vulnerable and some states without the ability to address the risks posed by small dams whose failure would likely result in the loss of lives, homes and businesses.

“Investing in critical infrastructure like dams is paramount to public safety. In West Virginia, we have 422 dams classified as high hazard potential. This bill will help facilitate the repair or removal of high hazard dams before an incident occurs, which could end up saving lives and future costs. I am glad to join with Senator Reed to introduce this important bipartisan bill,” said Senator Capito.

“Dams are a crucial part of our infrastructure and dam safety is critical to public safety. But many communities lack the funding and resources to keep local dams in safe condition,” said Senator Reed. “This bipartisan bill will help provide federal grant assistance to high hazard potential dams in need of rehabilitation. By assisting in the repair or removal of high hazard dams before they fail, the bill makes an investment in future cost savings, not to mention lives and property saved."

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the average age of dams in the United States is 52 years old.

The High Hazard Potential Small Dam Safety Act expands FEMA’s existing National Dam Safety Program to allow non-federal entities to apply for matching grants for the repair and removal of non-federal, non-agricultural, non-hydroelectric small dams that have been identified by a state dam safety agency as a high hazard potential. The program is non-mandatory, allowing states to determine which, if any, dams they would submit for assistance. The allocation of funds is based on a one-third equal distribution and two-thirds need-based formula, with a sixty-five – thirty-five percent cost share, to ensure the participation of a wide number of states.

The bipartisan bill is supported by the Association of State Dam Safety Officials and the American Society of Civil Engineers.