$157.5 Billion Needed to Rehabilitate the Nation’s Non-Federal Dams

In April, the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) released a report (The Cost of Rehabilitating Dams in the U.S.: A Methodology and Estimatewhich estimates the cost to rehabilitate the nation’s non-federal dams at $157.5 billion. The cost to rehabilitate just the most critical dams is estimated at $34.1 billion.

These estimates were based on actual dam rehabilitation costs for non-federal dam repairs over the past ten years and estimated costs for known upcoming projects. It included nationwide cost data for more than 500 projects, including dam removals. Project costs ran from $10,000 for small projects to more than $500 million for large complex projects.

Two years ago, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act was passed and provided once-in-a-generation funding for dam rehabilitation; however, ASDSO’s report illustrates the urgent need for ongoing investment. The Act, which provided more than $4 billion towards dam rehabilitation, is only a step towards adequately addressing the nation’s backlog of dam rehabilitation projects.

“To ensure the safety of our nation’s dams, we must maintain high funding levels to address the thousands of dams needing rehabilitation,” said ASDSO’s task force member Sharon Tapia. “We cannot return to previous funding levels, typically less than one percent annually of the investment made in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act.”

Rehabilitation becomes necessary as dams age, technical standards and techniques improve, and downstream populations and land use change. However, the cost of rehabilitation can be high, and the costs are rising significantly. This is due to a combination of factors, including escalated costs for construction materials and labor and the increased breadth of current engineering studies and analyses. 

Additionally, the overall number of dams needing rehabilitation has increased due to the identification of deficiencies outpacing the completion of rehabilitation projects. Funding and permitting constraints contribute significantly to the slower rate of completion.

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Media Contact: ASDSO Communications Director Katelyn Riley, [email protected], 859-550-2788 ext. 104