The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains a rigorous Dam Safety Program that requires continuous inspections of all federally-operated dams nationwide. This program demonstrates our commitment to protecting lives, property, and the environment through continuous assessment, communication, and management. Even though Addicks and Barker Reservoirs are dry much of the time, they are continuously monitored by a full-time staff.
The way USACE evaluates dam safety has changed. In the past, we based our risk assessments solely on a dam’s structural integrity. Now we use a formula that also considers the potential consequences of dam failure. For example, a dam failure in a large metropolitan area like Houston is more likely to cause major damage, than a dam in a rural area.
Based on this new risk-assessment formula, USACE identified two areas of concern at Addicks and Barker that resulted in both dams being designated “extremely high risk.”
- The structures (or gates) in the dams that open and close to permit outflow into Buffalo Bayou, and
- The ends of the dams
This does not mean that Addicks and Barker are in imminent danger of failing, but the structural issues identified above, combined with the fact that the nation’s fourth largest city is located downstream of the dams, resulted in the “high-risk” designation.
The “extremely high risk” designation places Addicks and Barker high on the list for funding and expedites all actions related to these two dams.