GALVESTON, Texas (May 31, 2014) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District joins the Association of State Dam Safety Officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in recognizing May 31 as National Dam Safety Awareness Day.
"Today we give pause to remember the 125th anniversary of the worst dam disaster in our nation’s history,” said Col. Richard P. Pannell, USACE Galveston District commander. “In 1889 the South Fork Dam failure in Johnstown, Pa., claimed the lives of 2,209 people and left thousands homeless. With two dams identified as ‘extremely high risk’ in our district, it’s imperative that we continue to communicate to the public the risks associated with these structures.”
In response to devastating floods that occurred in Houston in 1929 and 1935, the 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 Terry Bautista, USACE Galveston District, the Corps began a risk assessment on all Corps-owned dams nationwide in 2005. The potential failure mode analyses on the dams (completed in 2009) identified unacceptable risks associated with the outlets work structures 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 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 are now receiving priority for funding” said Bautista. “The Addicks and Barker Dam Safety Modification Study Report, which provided the recommended plan to minimize the risk of significant failure, was approved last summer. The design work has begun for the approved repairs and is expected to be completed by the end of 2014 with construction beginning in 2015. Once completed in 2018, the risk of failure will be significantly reduced.”
According to Bautista, the dams have served the Houston metropolitan area for more than 60 years, saving taxpayers an estimated $6.74 billion (2013) in potential flood prevention. With risk reduction measures implemented and long-term measures planned, 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, Bautista reminds residents that it is important to know the risks associated with potential dam failures and recommends residents review a guide entitled “Living With Dams: Know Your Risks,” located on the FEMA website at http://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/28161?id=6246. The guide covers topics ranging from an explanation of the potential risks associated with dams to providing tips for preparing for an emergency.
For more information about the Addicks and Barker reservoirs and dams visit www.addicksandbarker.info or learn more about dam safety at http://www.damsafety.org/. For news and information, visit www.swg.usace.army.mil. Find us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/GalvestonDistrict, or follow us on Twitter, www.twitter.com/USACEGalveston.
Release no. 14-025