Congress Set to Pass Major Legislation to Support Dam Industry
Legislation aimed at improving water resources across the United States is expected to pass in Congress. The Water Resources Development Act of 2016 provides $9 billion for various water infrastructure projects around the country, including repairs to dams and levees, improvements to ports, and relief for communities like Flint, Michigan, that have been impacted by lead-contaminated drinking water.
You can access a detailed summary of the bill's highlights at
The Water Resources Development Act coincides with the 40th anniversary of one of the worst dam failures in U.S. history: The Grand Teton Dam Failure of 1976. The Teton Dam was an earthen dam on the Teton River, about 12 miles northeast of Rexburg, Idaho. It was built by the Bureau of Reclamation, one of eight federal agencies authorized to construct dams, and it suffered a catastrophic failure on June 5, 1976, on the occasion of it filling for the first time. The failure resulted in 11 fatalities, over $300 million in claims, and up to $2 billion in damage. The dam, which cost $100 million, has not been replaced.
At the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) annual conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this month, Bruce Muller, Jr., gave a presentation on the Teton Dam failure and its impact on national policy. Bruce is the Director of Security and Law Enforcement for the Bureau of Reclamation. At the time of the dam failure, the Bureau of Reclamation was respected as a world leader in dam building. Bruce discussed how there were warning signs that should have been considered in the design and construction of the dam. In 1964, the Fontenelle Dam in southwestern Wyoming showed signs of weakness during its initial filling, requiring a series of emergency repairs. Lessons learned were not incorporated into the Teton Dam project.
The Teton Dam failure became a major focal point for the Carter administration and culminated with the Reclamation Safety of Dams Act of 1978. The Act authorized the Secretary of the Interior "to preserve the structural safety of Bureau of Reclamation dams and related facilities" and provided $100 million in available funds.
You can find a brief documentary on the Teton Dam failure