Saturday, May 16
Cracked Dams: yet another of the 1,000 faces of drought
First comes drought. Then comes cracks in dams. Then comes floods.
The photo is from a May 13 video report from WFAA8, a north Texas ABC TV News affiliate, headlined Hundreds of Texas dams at risk of failure. (See the WFAA website for the video.)
While Texans were celebrating the arrival of drenching rains in parched regions of the state, WFAA reporter Rebecca Lopez was investigating how all this bounty from the skies was impacting the state's dams. Her finding: Texans who live downstream from many of the dams have plenty to be concerned about:
[...]A study by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality found 245 dams around the state are actually in really bad shape.
"Age has something to do with it," said Warren Samuelson, manager of TCEQ's Dam Safety Section.
Aging dams and severe drought are causing cracks, and there is concern that with all the rain and flooding happening now, it may be too much for smaller dams to handle.
"After an extended period of drought like this, there are desiccation cracks that open up and fill with water during an event like this and can cause shallow instabilities," explained Jason Vasquez, Dam Safety Program Manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Corps does monitor the larger dams more closely, and works to repair them quickly. But the State of Texas is responsible for the smaller, private dams, and thousands go without being inspected.
In 2013, the state legislature decided to ease regulations on rural property owners, so more than 3,000 dams are exempt from inspection.
Even if the state could inspect all the dams, there is no money for repairs. The state hasn't funded repairs in five years.
"There are not many avenues for assistance," Samuelson said.