House Approves Rahall Backed Effort to Improve Dam Safety

From a Rep. Nick Rahall Release

Washington, DC – The House of Representatives today approved a Motion backed by U.S. Rep Nick J. Rahall, top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which aims to significantly boost dam safety and inspection efforts across the country. 


“West Virginians understand the importance of dams, the role they play in our daily lives, and the critical need to keep them safe,” said Rahall.  “Dams protect our people, homes, and provide essential drinking water, power, and recreational opportunities for our citizens.  But recent federal budget cuts have left dam safety inspectors across the country without the resources they need to do their jobs.  The action that the House has taken this afternoon sends a powerful message that we cannot continue to shortchange and put at risk the safety of our dams.”


Two-thirds of West Virginia’s 600 dams are considered high hazard dams, meaning that dam failure would result in loss of life and serious damage to homes, businesses, utilities, or highways.  Across the country, almost one-third of the Nation’s 87,000 dams pose a “high” or “significant” hazard to life and property if failure occurs. 


In 1972, a dam failure occurred at Buffalo Creek, West Virginia, claiming 125 lives and injuring one thousand more, and destroying over 500 homes.  Out of this tragedy, Congress created the National Dam Safety Program which provides training and assistance to State dam safety officials.  However, in recent years the Program has not been funded at appropriate levels.  The Motion approved today aims to boost annual funding for the Dam Safety Program by more than 30% and reauthorize the program for five years.  


“The Dam Safety Program is about protecting lives,” said Rahall.  “As I and several of my colleagues prepare to enter negotiations with our Senate counterparts on major Water Resources legislation, we will take with us the strong sense of the House that sufficient resources need to be dedicated to dam safety. The Water Resources conference report that we hope to produce will contain a host of additional safety measures to protect citizens and communities, in addition to investing in water infrastructure and growing jobs.”


Last month, the House passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, legislation, which authorizes significant investment in the Nation’s network of inland waterways and U.S. ports and boosts flood protection efforts.  The bipartisan bill was crafted collaboratively by U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), Chairman of the full Committee, and Rahall, the top Democrat on the Committee.  Earlier today, Rahall and Shuster announced a list of twenty-eight House members who will participate in a conference committee with their Senate counterparts to work out the differences between the House-passed bill and the Senate version. 


The Motion, which passed this afternoon by a vote of 347-76, expresses the support of the House for increased dam safety investments as House and Senate conference members prepare for negotiations.  Once that work is completed, the legislation will be sent back to both houses for final approval.

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