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Act Introduced to Extend National Dam Safety Program

Senators Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) have introduced legislation that would reauthorize dam safety programs first authorized through the Water Resources Development Act of 1996.

The legislation, called the National Dam Safety Act of 2012, would continue the National Dam Safety Program (NDSP), which provides support for state dam safety initiatives. Forty-nine states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico have established state dam safety programs, with Alabama being the lone exception.

Through the administration of the NDSP, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will continue leading national efforts to protect the public against dam failures by:

• Providing grant assistance for the improvement of state dam safety programs

• Instigating and supporting efforts in dam safety research and technology transfer

• Supporting public awareness efforts

• Acting as a liaison for communications between state and federal agencies

• Providing state dam safety staff training

The act is being applauded by the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO), which has supported the legislation since its first authorization in 1996 through subsequent authorizations in 2002 and 2006.

"There are more than 84,000 dams in the U.S. and state dam safety programs oversee more than 85% of them," says ASDSO President Zahir Bolourchi, P.E. "The NDSP is invaluable to the state programs involved with the day-to-day safety regulation of these vital, yet potentially dangerous, components of the national infrastructure."

ASDSO has worked with the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) since 1998 to issue national "infrastructure report cards" that assess the condition of America's dams. Since then, ASDSO says the grades have remained a "consistent 'D'," although the organization says the grade's seeming lack of progress is somewhat deceptive due to overall improvements in many areas pertaining to dam safety.

ASDSO notes, however, that it would still take about US$16 billion to rehabilitate the nation's most high-hazard dams, and funding for inspections and the enforcement of safety programs is still sparse. reported earlier this year on the naming of ASDSO's new officers and its annual awards ceremony.

Civil works and dam safety will be one of the tracks available to attendees of HydroVision International 2012.

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