Dam Safety Facts and Figures

Published June 4, 2015

USACE dams contributed to $485 billion in damages prevented from 2004 to 2013, with $13.4 billion in damages prevented in 2013.  USACE flood damage reduction projects avoid $8.00 of damages for each $1.00 invested.

Approximately 95 percent of the dams managed by USACE are more than 30 years old, and 52 percent have reached or exceeded the 50-year service lives for which they were designed.

  • Funding for Dam Safety Projects: dam safety projects executed by USACE are cost shared with a local sponsor and vary based on original authorization. The construction is fully funded by the U.S. Government up front and billed back to the cost shared sponsor over a set time period of years following construction completion.
  • Dams with highest life safety risk receive 100% of what can be efficiently expended in the program year, taking into account both budgeted funds and carryover balances.  This includes dams that are currently under study (haven’t reached final budget requirement decision) but have fully-funded interim risk reduction measures in place during the ongoing budgetary process.
  • In fiscal 2016, the construction budget for ten of these dams is $258 million.  In addition, $52 million is budgeted in fiscal 2016 for construction on one dam with very high economic risk. Extremely high risk dams are funded to capability at $234 million in fiscal 2016; very high risk dams are budgeted to $76 million.
  • Dam Safety portfolio averages 56 years old.
  • To fix all dams that need repairs would take $24 billion, 50 years with the current funding stream.

USACE owns and operates:

  • six of the 10 largest U.S. reservoirs
  • six of the 10 largest U.S. embankment dams
  • 50% of all federally-owned dams

EXAMPLE: Wolf Creek Dam (Kentucky) impounds the second largest reservoir east of the Mississippi River, 12th largest in U.S., was among our highest risk dams and was in an active state of failure. A barrier wall in the foundation was completed at a cost of approximately $600 million and included enough concrete to fill 89 Olympic-size swimming pools. (290,000 cubic yards).  This dam has returned to full service. 

EXAMPLE: Pine Creek Dam (Oklahoma) has seepage along conduit and leakage through conduit joints; the problem is Worsening – increased seepage during May 2009 record pool, reclassified from very high risk to extremely high risk.  Construction has started on a new outlet structure and cutoff wall.