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Posted 5/28/2014

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On May 31, 1889 South Fork Dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania failed, killing 2,200 people and leaving thousands more homeless. National Dam Safety Awareness Day occurs each year on May 31 to commemorate this disaster, which remains the worst dam failure in the history of the United States, and to encourage the public to learn about the benefits of dams and the risks associated with potential dam incidents and failures.

There are more than 85,000 dams in the United States, most of which are privately owned. Dam owners are responsible for safely maintaining and operating their dams to mitigate the risks and prevent catastrophic events. Although dams are designed to reduce the risk of flood damage and loss of life, they do not completely eliminate the risk.

The Army Corps of Engineers owns 694 dams in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The Little Rock District is responsible for the operation and maintenance of 12 multi-purpose dams designed for flood risk management and hydropower and 13 locks and dams that support navigation along the McKellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. Little Rock District dams also provide water supply, fish and wildlife conservation, and recreation benefits to the region.

The Corps Dam Safety Program seeks to ensure that USACE owned and operated dams do not present unacceptable risks to the public, property, or the environment, with the emphasis on people. USACE and the Federal Emergency Management Agency encourage the public to be aware of the risks due to both normal dam operations and catastrophic failures and to be prepared in the event of an emergency.

Other helpful links follows:

More on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam safety program http://www.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/DamSafetyProgram/ProgramActivities.aspx

The Association of State Dam Safety Officials offers more information at http://www.damsafety.org/