This last May 31 marked the anniversary of the South Fork Dam failure of 1889 that launched dam safety into national awareness. The day serves as a reminder to remain vigilant caretakers of the nation’s 84,000-plus dams.
Age affects the performance of everything, including watershed infrastructure. Attention and ongoing maintenance is the responsibility of both the dam owner and the community it serves — requiring a coordinated, collective effort to ensure dams continue to function as intended…as silent protectors. To help communities remain vigilant, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers dam safety resources for communities.
NRCS’s Role in Dam Safety
Since 1948, NRCS has assisted local sponsors in constructing over 11,850 dams. Through the Watershed Rehabilitation Program (REHAB), NRCS helps project sponsors rehabilitate aging dams that are reaching the end of their design life and/or no longer meet federal or state safety criteria or performance standards.
REHAB can also help build or augment existing water supplies based on current and future water supply demands. Nationwide, watershed REHAB projects have provided over $2.2 billion in reduced flooding and erosion damage. Additional benefits include improving wildlife habitat, recreation, water quality and supply for an estimated 47 million people.
The goal of the Watershed REHAB program is to provide local sponsors with technical and financial assistance to address concerns before they become a liability. Sponsors can submit a request for financial assistance to NRCS. For more information on sponsor eligibility visit our Sponsorship Eligibility webpage.