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

Published May 29, 2015

GALVESTON, Texas (May 29, 2015) – 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.

“We encourage and promote individual and community responsibility, while remembering the 126th anniversary of the worst dam disaster in U.S. history – the South Form Dam failure in Johnstown, Pennsylvania – which resulted in the deaths of 2,209 people and left thousands homeless,” said Col. Richard Pannell, USACE Galveston District commander. “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 them.”

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 Terry Bautista, USACE Galveston District, the district began a risk assessment on all USACE-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 dams. The risks combined with the potential consequences to the Houston metropolitan area, should there be a failure, elevated the classification of Addicks and Barker dams to extremely high risk.

“Having Addicks and Barker dams designated as extremely high risk was a significant step toward increasing their safety because it led to additional funding for modifications,” said Bautista. “These modifications, once constructed, will decrease the risks associated with the dams. The design for the repairs will be complete early summer 2015 with award of the construction contract in the fall 2015. Construction is expected to last about three years."

The Addicks and Barker dams have served the Houston metropolitan area for more than 70 years, saving taxpayers an estimated $8 billion (2014) 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.

"Houston faces a lot of different risks that can result in property damage, injury, or death," said Rick Flanagan, Emergency Management Coordinator for the City of Houston. "Knowing what these risks are, as well as taking steps to safeguard yourself against them, is key to making sure you and your family are protected.  One thing you can do is make sure you have the right kind of homeowners, renters and flood insurance to help you bounce back quickly after a disaster."

With all dams presenting risk potential, Bautista 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 http://www.damsafety.org/. The guide covers topics ranging from an explanation of the potential risks associated with dams to providing tips for preparing for an emergency.

The district was recognized with a 2015 Communitas Award in the “Making a Difference” category for its dam safety outreach efforts and is named a Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil Award finalist in the Community Relations and Integrated Communications categories; a public relations competition that recognizes the best communication programs in the nation.

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. 15-031