by Greg Walcher, E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow
As Appearing in the Daily Sentinel
A wire story printed by dozens of newspapers last month called attention to a national safety problem, the age and condition of dams. Its headline said “At least 1,680 dams across the U.S. pose potential risk.” That is my candidate for understatement of the decade.
There are 91,468 dams in the U.S., including 1,803 in Colorado. All of them are potentially dangerous, though almost all are necessary parts of America’s vital infrastructure, every bit as important to our lives as highways, airports, pipes, and power lines. But unlike roads, most Americans do not see dams and reservoirs every day, so they don’t give much thought to the importance of dams. They should.
Dams serve a variety of purposes, especially flood control, irrigation, domestic water supply, power generation, and recreation. On average, they are over 50 years old, and many have seen almost no maintenance since their original construction. Several are just plain dangerous.