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Introduction of the Dam Safety Act of 2012

Statement of Senator Daniel K. Akaka in the Congressional Record

Fri, June 29, 2012

MR. AKAKA.  Mr. President, I rise today to introduce legislation to reauthorize the National Dam Safety Program managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA.  I thank Senators Boozman, Whitehouse, and Crapo for joining me in sponsoring this bill that will help promote public safety and prevent the destruction caused by dam failures.  This fiscally responsible legislation will help states do more to protect communities and avoid costly dam incidents without increasing funding above the most recent authorization level.

With more than 84,000 dams listed in the National Inventory of Dams, dams are a critical and ubiquitous part of our nation's infrastructure.  In Hawaii, 142 state-regulated dams are located across our islands from Kekaha on Kauai to Paauilo on Hawaii Island.  These dams are owned by non-profit organizations, private companies, individuals, and federal, state, and local governments.  While they go largely unseen, dams benefit our lives every day.  They provide drinking water, hydroelectric power, irrigation water, flood control, and recreational opportunities. 

However, dams also pose a significant risk to public safety, local economies, and the environment.  Our nation's dams received a grade of "D" from the American Society of Civil Engineers 2009 Report Card for America's Infrastructure, which cited more than 4,000 deficient dams, including more than 1,800 that would result in loss of life if they failed.  Unfortunately, we know that this risk is not just hypothetical.  In 2006, the Ka Loko Dam on Kauai collapsed killing seven people, and dozens of other dam failures have occurred across the nation since that time.  While we cannot avoid all dam incidents, this legislation will help prevent dam disasters and better prepare Americans for when they do happen.

The National Dam Safety Program is the foundation of prevention efforts nationally.  The program helps states to check for deteriorating conditions at dams.  This is important so that repairs can be made in order to safeguard against incidents that result in loss of life and property.  The program also helps ensure that states have the technical assistance, training, and procedures needed to prevent dams from reaching a condition that puts communities in danger.

I very much appreciate the involvement of experts in dam safety, including FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Association of State Dam Safety Officials, in developing this legislation.  I urge my colleagues to support his measure.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be included in the Record.  Thank you, Mr. President.

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