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Posted 5/28/2013

Release no. 13-033

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (May 28, 2013) – More than 2,200 people died in Johnstown, Pa., May 31, 1889, when the South Fork Dam failed nine miles upstream of the town.

“On National Dam Safety Awareness Day, May 31, we are called to remember both the benefits of dams and the risks associated with potential dam incidents and failures,” said Col. Bill Leady, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District.

“Communicating risk awareness to the community living below a dam is every bit as crucial as our ongoing mission to monitor and maintain the health of the dam,” said Leady. “We work to continuously improve our crisis action plans with other local, state and federal authorities.”

Monitoring dam safety is an around-the-clock effort.

“The Sacramento District has more than 1,000 instruments of various types on our dams,” said Jack Carroll, dam safety chief for the Sacramento District. “Our instruments are there to monitor a dam's performance and response to a variety of things, including rapid pool rise during floods, movement by earthquakes and daily performance.

“We survey the embankments to see if they have settled or moved, and regularly measure how much seepage is occurring to ensure that our embankments are performing as intended,” said Carroll. “It is truly a team effort, with dam operations personnel inspecting the structures and engineering personnel evaluating that data.”

Construction of a new dam and spillway at Folsom Dam is a prime example of work being accomplished by the Sacramento District and its partner agencies to modernize an existing dam system to meet tomorrow’s needs while accomplishing the work efficiently and with limited funding resources.

Sacramento District also continues research to find the best solution for improving performance at several of its dams in California, including Success Dam and Isabella Lake Dam. As in all Corps projects, each study seeks the optimal solution to meet the needs of both man and nature.

Sacramento District personnel participate in a regular schedule of emergency drills with safety and law enforcement officials in each area where the district operates a dam. These simulations improve communication between the agencies in preparation for any possible crisis actions.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District operates and maintains 15 dams in California’s Central Valley and participates in operating flood control storage at 19 additional dams within California, eight in Utah’s Great Basin and seven in Colorado’s Upper Colorado River Basin.

The following agencies offer resources for assessing your area’s flood risk near dams:

California Department of Water Resources
Colorado Division of Water Resources
Nevada Division of Water Resources
Utah Division of Water Rights

The Association of State Dam Safety Officials offers more information at

More on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam safety program

Corps of Engineers dam safety infrastructure National Dam Safety Awareness Day sacramento district technology U.S. Army