The push to make our dams safer
Why it matters: At least 1,680 dams across the U.S. pose potential risk of failure, an AP investigation found in 2019.
- In Iowa, at least 19 dams are in poor or unsatisfactory condition, according to state data. Thousands of others are privately owned and their conditions have generally not been rated.
By the numbers: Iowa has more than 4,100 dams, many of which are 50 years or older. That's beyond their typical design lifespan, Jonathan Garton, a supervisor of the state Department of Natural Resources' Dam Safety Program, told us yesterday.
- Dams are inspected based largely on their hazard potential.
- About 100 are "high-hazard" dams — those with the greatest potential to kill people if they fail — that are inspected every two years.
Flashback: Delaware County's Lake Delhi Dam breached in 2010, flooding dozens of homes and businesses in nearby Monticello and causing millions of dollars in damage. There were no deaths.
- Design and maintenance deficiencies, following heavy rains, contributed to the nearly 90-year-old dam's breach.
- It was rebuilt in 2016 for $16 million.
Between the lines: Even if approved, the Twenty-First Century Dams Act will not fix all the problems.
- U.S. dams are in need of almost $94 billion in upgrades over the next decade, according to a report released by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) this year.
- Iowa was rated a "D" by ASCE. The group noted inspection and maintenance is often the responsibility of private owners, putting public safety largely in their hands.
⚠️ Of note: Glen Oaks Country Club has the only high-hazard dam in poor condition in Polk County, according to the DNR.
- Yes, but: A recently completed rehabilitation project will soon upgrade the condition to satisfactory, Garton told Jason.
What's next: The congressional proposal has bipartisan support, but it still has a long way to go in the legislative process.
More Des Moines stories
No stories could be found
Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Des Moines.