Actions Needed to Increase the Safety of Dams Built by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Corps of Engineers

CED-77-85: Published: Jun 3, 1977. Publicly Released: Jun 3, 1977.

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The site selection, design, and monitoring processes used by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Corps of Engineers during dam construction projects were examined to determine if the Bureau and Corps could significantly reduce the risk of dam failures through improved policies, procedures, and practices.

Except for the Bureau's very limited use of an independent review process during site selection, no major difference was found in Bureau and Corps procedures for selecting damsites from the standpoint of safety. During the design phase, neither the Bureau nor the Corps utilized independent consultants to review project designs and site investigations for all storage dams. Furthermore, in the past, the Bureau has not always taken steps to ensure that the intent of its designers is adequately implemented during construction. In addition, the Bureau failed to use several key monitoring and control measures to detect possible seepage in the case of the Teton Dam failure.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: To improve the site selection process, the Bureau and the Corps should use consultants to independently evaluate site investigations. Similarly, the Bureau should utilize independent consultants to review project designs and evaluate its technical procedures for investigating and designing dams. In addition, the Bureau should establish written procedures to ensure that the design intent is achieved. More effective surveillance procedures are needed to monitor and control dam safety during reservoir fillings. Both the Bureau and the Corps should reevaluate their policies for instrumenting dams relative to the number and types of instrumentation that should be used and the frequency for reading instruments and reporting the data to designers. The Bureau should also revise its guidelines and procedures to establish a stronger emergency preparedness program. The Secretaries of the Interior and Defense should establish a formal agreement to arrange for the prompt transmittal from Geological Survey to the Bureau and the Corps of all existing reports and information relating to an actual or potential damsite.

    Agency Affected:


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