There are approximately 79,000 dams in the US Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) National Inventory of Dams (NID), which is the most comprehensive inventory of dams nationwide. Throughout the U.S., there are tens of thousands of conduits through dams and levees that are aging and deteriorating. Many of these conduits were poorly constructed and are not frequently inspected, if at all. Deteriorating conduits pose an increasingly greater risk for developing defects that can lead to dam and levee failure. Typical considerations for dam and levee inspections:
- Is a visual (CCTV) inspection sufficient? Laser? Sonar?
- Portable inspection equipment
- Off-road transportation (Argos, ATV’s, boats, etc.)
- Environmentally sensitive areas (fuel containment, battery power, access issues, etc.)
- Wildlife (snakes, bears, etc.)
Recent revisions to dam safety regulations often target “dam hazard potential” classifications based on potential loss of human life or property damage if a dam were to fail. In many cases, dams are being regulated for the first time and even those that were regulated are now forced to meet more stringent safety criteria due to population growth. Safety standards become increasingly more stringent as the potential for adverse impact increases. Many newly proposed regulations by states and localities also track federal standards more closely in an effort to improve public safety.
In addition to the increased safety measurements, it should also be noted that the latest regulations provided additional environmental benefits. Many of these impounding structures are constructed as retention devices for silt and other materials. By ensuring their safe operation and maintenance, these pollutants are prevented from being released into downstream bodies of water and environments; thus improving water quality.
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