Akaka wants national dam inspections

United States Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawai‘i, recently joined U.S. Sen. Christopher S. Bond, R-Missouri, in introducing legislation to re-authorize the National Dam Safety Program Act, a press release states.

The National Dam Safety Program, established in 1996 and managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), provides grants to improve state dam-safety programs through training, technical assistance, inspection, and research.

“The costs of failing to maintain dams properly are extremely high. Such was the tragic situation when the Ka Loko dam on the island of Kaua‘i suddenly collapsed in March,” Akaka said. “When a dam collapses, destruction is often swift and uncontrollable. In the case on Kaua‘i, lives were lost, farms were destroyed, and homes were damaged,” he said. “Thankfully, local, state and federal officials quickly responded to the tragedy,” said Akaka.

“However, it should be our goal to prevent a dam from failing in the first place, and that is what the National Dam Safety Program helps to do.”

There have been at least 29 dam failures in the United States during the past two years, causing more than $200 million in property damage.

Only 5 percent of the nation’s 78,000 dams are owned, operated, or regulated by the federal government.

State governments are responsible for ensuring the safety of most dams.

Unfortunately, many state programs are under-funded and understaffed.

This legislation recognizes that the federal government plays a vital role in maintaining and repairing dams wherever they may be located.

The Dam Safety Act of 2006 will re-authorize the National Dam Safety Program, at a cost of approximately $13 million annually over the next five years, with funds allocated as follows:

? $8 million per year split among the states, based on the relative number of dams per state, to make improvements in programs identified in the National Dam Safety Program Act;

? $2 million per year in research funds to identify more effective techniques to assess, construct, and monitor dams;

? $700,000 per year in training assistance to state engineers;

? $1 million per year for employment of additional FEMA staff personnel;

? $1 million per year for the National Inventory of Dams.

Akaka is senior member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which conducts oversight of FEMA.

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