USACE Galveston District’s dam safety mission highlighted on National Dam Safety Awareness Day

Published May 31, 2013

GALVESTON, Texas (May 31, 2013) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District will join the Association of State Dam Safety Officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in recognizing May 31 as National Dam Safety Awareness Day.

“Today marks the 124th anniversary of the worst dam disaster in United States history - the South Fork Dam failure in Johnstown, Pa., which resulted in the deaths of 2,209 people and left thousands homeless,” said Col. Christopher Sallese, USACE Galveston District commander. “As the commander of a district with two dams identified as ‘extremely high risk,’ it’s imperative that we continue to communicate risks associated with dams so that the public is aware of and understands the risks associated with dams.”

In response to devastating floods that occurred in Houston in 1929 and 1935, the USACE Galveston District began construction of Addicks and Barker dams in what was then undeveloped areas in far west Harris and east Fort Bend counties to prevent the loss of life and property and provide flood damage reduction along Buffalo Bayou downstream of the reservoirs and through the center of the City of Houston. Construction of the Addicks and Barker structures were completed in 1948 and 1945 respectively.

According to Dam Safety Officer Robert Howell, USACE Galveston District, the Corps began a risk assessment on all Corps-owned dams nationwide in 2005. The potential failure mode analyses on the Addicks and Barker dams (completed in 2009) identified unacceptable risks associated with the outlets work structures at the dams and with the auxiliary spillways at the ends of the dams. The risks associated with these concerns combined with the potential consequences to the Houston metropolitan area (should there be a failure), elevated the classification of Addicks and Barker dams’ classification to extremely high risk.

“Having Addicks and Barker dams designated as extremely high risk is a significant step toward increasing their safety because they will receive priority for funding and repair,” said Howell. “The Addicks and Barker Dam Safety Modification Report, which will provide the recommended plan to minimize the risk of significant failure, is currently under review and is scheduled to be approved this summer.”

The Addicks and Barker dams have served the Houston metropolitan area for more than 60 years, saving taxpayers an estimated $6.4 billion (2012) in potential flood prevention. With risk reduction measures implemented and proposed long-term measures planned for the future, it is expected that the dams will continue to serve the City of Houston for several decades to come.

With all dams presenting risk potential, Howell reminds residents that it is important to know the risks associated with potential dam incidents and failures and recommends residents review a new guide entitled “Living With Dams: Know Your Risks,” located on the ASDSO website at The guide covers topics ranging from an explanation of the potential risks associated with dams to  providing tips for preparing for an emergency.

"We all have an important role to play in creating a future where all dams are safe, and this guide answers important questions about why people should care about dams and what they should do if they live near a dam," said ASDSO executive director Lori Spragens.

For more information about the Addicks and Barker reservoirs and dams visit or learn more about dam safety at For news and information, visit Find us on Facebook,, or follow us on Twitter,

Release no. 13-034