Failing dam in Minnesota underscores need for improved dam safety 

June 24, 2024

June 24, 2024 
Contact: Amy Souers Kober, 503-708-1145 

The Rapidan Dam on the Blue Earth River near Mankato, Minnesota is failing, putting downstream communities at risk. Recent rainfall and high water levels in the river undermined the integrity of the dam, which was already in a state of disrepair.  

Brian Graber, senior director for river restoration at American Rivers, made the following statement: 

“This is a serious risk for public safety that should have been avoided. Aging, unsafe dams are ticking time bombs. While the immediate focus must be on ensuring nearby residents are safe, we must do a better job at the state and federal level to improve the safety of dams nationwide.” 

“This is not an isolated incident. Climate change is bringing more severe flooding, at a time when our nation’s infrastructure is crumbling. There are tens of thousands of obsolete, unsafe dams across the country. Hundreds of dams have breached or failed in recent years because of heavy rainfall and flooding, putting communities at risk.” 

“The fact that Blue Earth County was aware of the dam’s poor condition underscores the need for more support and funding to expedite the process to remove or repair hazardous dams.” 

“We must invest in our rivers to protect public health and safety. This means shoring up necessary oversight and safety regulations, while also increasing funding for water infrastructure, including the removal of outdated dams. The most cost-effective and permanent way to deal with obsolete, unsafe dams is to remove them.” 

“It is more important than ever to reauthorize and strengthen the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Dam Safety Program. The National Dam Safety Program provides grants to State Dam Safety Agencies to reduce the public safety risks associated with dams. FEMA received an additional $725 million through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation for dam safety, including programs like FEMA’s High Hazard Potential Dam Rehabilitation Grant Program, which can fund the removal or repair of eligible dams.”

About American Rivers  
American Rivers is championing a national effort to protect and restore all rivers, from remote mountain streams to urban waterways. Healthy rivers provide people and nature with clean, abundant water and natural habitat. For 50 years, American Rivers staff, supporters, and partners have shared a common belief: Life Depends on Rivers.