Dam Safety Exploring Our Nation's Dams

 

Huntington District Dam Safety Program

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Huntington District Dam Safety Program Uses a risk-informed approach to manage its portfolio of 44 dams, with public safety the number one priority. The primary authorized purpose for most of these dams is flood control. Other authorized purposes include recreation, water supply, fish and wildlife, navigation, and hydropower. These benefits are critical to watershed management and integral to many communities. 

Primary functions of Dam Safety

  • Inspections - Periodic Inspections are performed on a 5-year schedule and consist of a multidisciplinary team of engineers. Periodic Inspections are thorough, lasting up to a week and involve analyzing all previous findings to understand dam performance. Annual Inspections are also performed by a Dam Safety specialist to verify operational adequacy. 
  • Emergency Exercises - performed on a 2- or 5-year schedule depending on the level of risk of the dam. These exercises involve engineers, project staff, emergency management, local emergency managers, local officials, and other state, local, and federal agencies.
  • Training - Dam Safety Team Leads conduct dam safety training for project personnel, outlining emergency response procedures and rehearsing emergency contact protocols
  • Risk Assessments - performed on a minimum 10-year schedule. The assessment uses a systematic approach for describing the nature of flood risk along with the likelihood and severity of consequences. The assessment results in a risk characterization of the hazards associated with the dam. These assessments help prioritize our construction activities and other actions to reduce and manage risk.
  • High Water Surveillance - Special flood inspections are performed by specialized engineers any time that a dam exceeds its established alert threshold.  These thresholds are based mostly on each dam’s performance history.  Once a threshold is exceeded, Dam Safety staff are dispatched to perform daily or 24/7 monitoring and carefully check all project features and read gauges and instruments that constantly monitor a dam’s ability to safely operate.  If a dam is found to not be operating as designed, then protocols are in place to warn downstream communities.

Our Dam Safety inspections, risk assessments, and emergency planning activities help provide a constant state of readiness in the event of a flood.  Dams reduce the risk of flooding but do not completely eliminate it.  A dam could still fail or be overwhelmed by a flood greater than it was designed to handle.  Collaboration with local emergency managers and local, state, and federal partners is instrumental in reducing the risk of flooding to downstream communities

 

Contact

Huntington District Dam Safety Program Manager

(304) 399-5007