Wyden introduces dam safety bill

Funds would upgrades for at-risk structures

WASHINGTON - Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced legislation Thursday to allow for critical upgrades to hundreds of Bureau of Reclamation dams across the western United States, including Scoggins Dam in Washington County.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, wouldextend Reclamation's Safety of Dams program by allowing for much-needed funding, the senators said.

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"Earthquakes and other natural disasters can cause massive damage to communities and lives if they strike out-of-date dams," Wyden said.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.

"This is an important step toward improving dam safety across the West and securing Oregon's water future," said Andy Duyck, chair of Washington County Board of Commissioners and of the Clean Water Services Board of Director. "This bill clears the path for us to work with Reclamation to protect the public and secure Scoggins Dam, our primary water source."

Hyatt Dam on Keene Creek southeast of Talent in Southern Oregon could also benefit from the bill.

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.

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