Doug Bedell — January 24, 2006, 2:53 pm

Protecting Hazardous Dams

Danger lurks at the head of thousands of American rivers and streams. The Christian Science Monitor reports that 3,500 of America’s big dams are unsafe and that civil engineers consider thousands of smaller dams hazardous – floods waiting to happen.

Prospects of attending to these risks anytime soon are dim. “While Congress quickly approved $3 billion to improve New Orleans’ levees,” states the Monitor,” a bill to help states repair aging dams has languished for a year.”

That makes unsafe dams not only hazards, but potential targets. Along with hydrostatic questions, security has to be a prime concern at unsafe dams. Better to restrict traffic with checkpoints or vehicle barriers than risk catastrophic flooding. Repair unsafe dams, yes, but provide perimeter security in the meantime.

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