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General NewsDam problems

March 1, 2017

In February 2017, a dam almost broke apart in Oroville, CA. Rain caused the dam to overflow. Then big flood danger caused 200,000 people to leave their homes. Is this story old news, or is it a look at the future? Many of America’s dams are in poor condition.

The US has about 84,000 dams, but 15,498 of them are “high hazard” dams like Oroville. This means that many people live close to the dam. If a high hazard dam fails, land, animals, and people are destroyed.

The Oroville Dam started working in 1969 to provide electricity and water for Californians. This dam is old, and so are the other dams. The average age of all US dams is 52 years old. These aging dams have old technology. Construction materials also need replacing, and the dams don’t have modern safety features.

Problems with the Oroville Dam were reported in 2005, but there was no action. This is not unusual. The cost of updating and replacing old construction is high, and usually the dams are not fixed before trouble happens.

The director of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials said that emergency plans are important to save lives when a dam fails. Oroville had such a plan, but 2,912 other dams don’t.

Published March 2017

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