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    National Dam Safety Day – balancing safety and benefits in water infrastructure

    National Dam Safety Day – balancing safety and benefits in water infrastructure

    Courtesy Photo | Dam inspections play a key role in the USACE dam safety program. USACE engineers and...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District

    TULSA, Okla. — The catastrophic failure of the South Fork Dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, on May 31, 1889, left a deep scar in American history.

    The disaster, which claimed 2,200 lives and displaced thousands, is the deadliest dam failure in the United States. National Dam Safety Awareness Day is observed every year on May 31 to honor the memory of those lost and promote awareness about dam safety.

    “This day serves as a reminder of the potential dangers of dam failures and also prompts a call to action,” said Tulsa District Commander, Col. Timothy Hudson.

    “It underscores the importance of understanding the benefits and risks associated with dams, and the need for preparedness in the face of possible dam-related incidents,” said Hudson. “I am grateful for the many professionals who assess, review, and maintain our dams in order to serve our communities.”

    Dams are crucial in providing water supply, recreational opportunities, hydroelectric power, flood risk reduction, and navigation. However, they also pose significant risks if not properly maintained and monitored.

    The USACE dam safety program ensures that USACE-owned and operated dams do not present unacceptable risks to the public, property, or the environment, primarily focusing on protecting human lives.

    "Routine inspections are a critical component of this program," said David Blackmore, dam safety program manager.

    USACE engineers and operations staff conduct annual inspections and more thorough evaluations every five years.

    "These in-depth inspections often involve close examination of dam structures, such as gates, using ropes for access," said Blackmore. "Additionally, instruments installed at dams continuously monitor water levels and other conditions, providing real-time data to help detect potential issues early."

    Despite these efforts, it is crucial to acknowledge that dams, while significantly reducing flood risks, do not eliminate them. Exceptional flood events can exceed a dam's capacity, necessitating controlled releases that might exacerbate downstream flooding. Water control manuals guide these decisions, aiming to minimize overall flood impacts.

    USACE and the Federal Emergency Management Agency promote public awareness and preparedness. They encourage communities living near dams to understand routine and emergency protocols, ensuring they know how to respond to a dam-related incident.

    National Dam Safety Awareness Day reminds us of the balance between harnessing dams' benefits and mitigating their risks. By staying informed and prepared, communities can help ensure that these structures continue to serve safely and effectively, protecting lives and property while supporting essential services.

    The Tulsa District, established in 1939, covers over 160,000 square miles. This district oversees water resource development in the Arkansas and Red River basins, which include parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

    The Tulsa District's Civil Works program manages 33 multipurpose lake projects, five locks and dams, and eight hydropower facilities, reflecting a comprehensive approach to water resource management and dam safety.


    Date Taken: 05.31.2024
    Date Posted: 05.31.2024 09:59
    Story ID: 472694
    Location: TULSA, OKLAHOMA, US

    Web Views: 46
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