An estimated 70% of America's 87,000 dams were built in 1970, and will be turning 50 in 2020. These damns are deteriorating and 4.6 billion that Congress wants to funnel into water projects will not be nearly enough, with the American Society of Civil Engineers predicting an investment of $3.3 billion being necessary to modernize infrastructure.
The funds received from Congress' proposed Water Resources Development Act would help to repair some publicly owned dams but most are private. Adding to the trouble, many of the aging dams can no longer handle the waters they were built to control.
John France, a dam and hydropower engineer at the consulting firm AECOM, explained that infrastructure repair is necessary due to the risks associated with high-hazard dam failing:
“South Carolina had 20 or 25 dams that failed because of heavy rainfall,” France said. “We were fortunate in that case that those dams happened to be low-hazard dams rather than high-hazard dams.”