National Flood Safety Awareness Week Begins Today

Over $1 billion in stimulus funds available to remove unsafe, outdated dams to protect communities

March 16th, 2009

Stephanie Lindloff, American Rivers, 518.482.2631
Caitlin Jennings, American Rivers, 202.347.7550 x3100

Washington DC- As National Flood Safety Awareness Week kicks off today, American Rivers called on recipients of federal stimulus funding to eliminate a serious flood risk to many communities across the country – unsafe dams.  Communities and the environment benefit from the removal of unsafe and obsolete dams.   

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes more than $1 billion that can be applied to removing these safety hazards.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is accepting such proposals through April 6 (www.habitat.noaa.gov/recovery).  The Natural Resources Conservation Service is also accepting applications through March 27 for the Emergency Watershed Protection-Floodplain Easement Program (www.nrcs.usda.gov).

American Rivers also called on the Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management to wisely invest their Recovery funding and achieve safer conditions and a healthier environment through dam removal.

“While some dams are beneficial to society, many have outlived their usefulness and the repairs and regular maintenance they require are an economic drain on taxpayers,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. “Now more than ever we can’t afford to waste money, and dam removal is often the cheapest way to deal with a dam’s safety, economic, and environmental problems.”

According to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials, there are 10,213 high hazard potential dams across the United States that would pose a threat to human life if they were to fail.  When these dams do more harm than good, they should be removed. 

The challenges of flooding are not new, but today they are unprecedented in scale.  The average cost of annual flood damages has already tripled in the last century to a staggering $6 billion.  Between global climate change—which will bring bigger storm surges and more rain—and population growth, those damages will likely increase at an even faster pace as human, economic, and environmental resources are more and more taxed. 

Unfortunately, many of the measures taken to reduce flooding actually exacerbate the problem. Dams and levees may temporarily reduce local flooding, but river scientists agree destroying the natural functions of healthy rivers and floodplains ultimately makes flooding worse.  

In addition to improved public safety, communities that choose to pull out obsolete dams can also benefit from better water quality, revitalized fisheries, new recreational opportunities, increased real estate values, and recovered land suitable for parks and other public use.

For more than ten years, American Rivers has led a national effort to restore rivers through removing dams that no longer make sense. This effort has enabled a gradual shift in society’s view of dams and dramatically increased consideration of dam removal as a reasonable and beneficial option for restoring rivers.

“When we tear down old infrastructure like obsolete dams, we build up our natural infrastructure the streams, wetlands and floodplains that give our communities essential services like clean water, flood protection, and other economic benefits,” added Wodder.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Flood Safety Awareness Week is designed to educate people on the way floods occur and what can be done to protect people and property.


###

About American Rivers

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.