Downstream Dam Safety

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Release date: 
June 5, 2001
Release Number: 
National Dam Safety Program

Seattle, WA -- Twenty five years ago today the Teton Dam in Idaho sent over 20 billion gallons of water spilling down the Teton Canyon towards the towns of Willford, Teton, Sugar City, Rexburg, Roberts and Idaho Falls, contributing to the deaths of eleven people and causing over $1 billion in damages. With over 80,000 dams across the country (9,000 of which have been designated by their State as "high hazard dams") today's anniversary of what many have called the second largest flood since the ice age, is a good time to reflect on current upstream hazards. According to FEMA Acting Regional Director Tammy Doherty, over 95 percent of all dams are owned by states, local government, industry or individuals.

"Dam safety can affect people and property across local, state, and even national borders, and an incident in one area can affect commerce, navigation and power generation in another," said Doherty. "FEMA doesn't own or regulate dams, and serves as an independent and honest broker for dam safety. It's critical that people who live downstream are aware of and understand risks associated with dams, and that effective evacuation plans are in place."

"When a state designates a dam as "high hazard" it has little to do with the inherent stability of the dam, but everything to do with the threat posed to downstream populations in the unlikely event of dam failure," continued Doherty. "Remembering tragedies such as the Teton Dam failure underscores the importance of dam safety, and encourages residents to become active partners in local Emergency Action Plans."

Graphic of a speaker to denote this is an audio file. Listen - Carl Cook, Mitigation Safety Director for FEMA Region X, discusses dam safety. (.wav ~7 MB) or read the transcript (Word).

Last Updated: 
July 19, 2012 - 23:02
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