Democratic News

Jan 16 2014

Wyden Introduces Bill to Improve Safety at Scoggins Dam and Hundreds of Federal Facilities Across the West

Bill Extends the Bureau of Reclamation Safety of Dams Program; Allows for Crucial Upgrades to Hundreds of Dams Across the Country; Will Allow Improvements at Oregon’s Scoggins Dam

Washington, D.C. – Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden today introduced a bill to allow for critical upgrades to hundreds of Bureau of Reclamation dams across the western United States, including Scoggins Dam in Washington County, Oregon.

The bill, co-sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, will extend Reclamation’s Safety of Dams program by allowing for much-needed funding. The program monitors 476 dams and dikes managed by the bureau for safety risks, and helps fund upgrades that protect homes, provide certainty for economic growth across 17 states, and gather irrigation water for farms.

“Earthquakes and other natural disasters can cause massive damage to communities and lives if they strike out-of-date dams,” Wyden said. “I introduced this bill so Reclamation can continue its vital work identifying and upgrading at-risk structures.”

“Fixing these facilities also relieves uncertainty that can take a bite out of job growth – including in Oregon. At a time when major employers like Intel and Nike are expanding in Washington County, that community needs assurances that Scoggins Dam is receiving the needed safety upgrades without delay,” Wyden said.

Background: The Safety of Dams program was last reauthorized in 2004. Now it is nearing the spending cap of $1.4 billion, and without action, important safety of dams work will be forced to stop.

The program assesses the risks to dams and plans for needed safety upgrades. Local partners must pay for 15 percent of the modification costs. To date, the program has performed safety mitigation efforts at 80 dams across the 17 Western United States.

Currently, 370 Bureau of Reclamation-managed dams are listed within the “High” or “Significant Hazard” class, meaning failure of the dam or dike would cause life loss or significant damage.