Trump Budget Puts Communities at Risk from Unsafe Dams

November 16, 2017

November 3, 2017

Contact: Amy Kober, 503-708-1145

Washington, DC – Communities nationwide will face increasing risk from outdated, unsafe dams if the Trump Administration cancels a vital program addressing dam safety.

President Trump’s budget zeroes out the Bureau of Reclamation’s Dam Safety Program. This important program tracks how changing weather patterns due to climate change — such as more frequent and severe flood events — impact dam operations, and assesses the need for infrastructure upgrades to ensure public safety.

Recent Hurricanes Harvey and Maria triggered warnings of possible dam failures in Houston and Puerto Rico. In February, 200,000 people had to be evacuated when torrential rains threatened California’s Oroville Dam. Last October, nearly 50 dams failed across North and South Carolina during Hurricane Matthew, resulting in loss of life and property.

“President Trump’s failure to fund this essential program puts the safety of millions of Americans at risk,” said Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers. “Ignoring urgent dam safety concerns is reckless and will surely lead to future tragedies. Public safety must be our highest priority when managing dams and rivers, and we must do all we can to keep communities safe.”

The American Society of Civil Engineers gives the nation’s dams a “D” grade in its Report Card on the Nation’s Infrastructure. According to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials, America’s dams are degrading faster than they are being repaired, the number of high hazard dams is increasing, and the cost to rehabilitate dams continues to rise. By 2020, seventy percent of dams in the United States will be more than 50 years old. Aging dams can pose a serious safety threat for individuals and entire communities.

“Instead of ignoring the problem, we must ensure the highest level of safety at the nation’s dams. This means funding improvements in dam operations and making necessary upgrades to meet the new realities of climate change. It also means removing obsolete dams, as a dam that has been removed can no longer pose a risk.”

“We urge Congress and the Trump Administration to fully fund the Bureau of Reclamation’s Dam Safety Program as a critical step toward improving public safety.”


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 an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 275,000 members, supporters and volunteers.

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