New Hampshire’s growing number of dams pose a safety hazard – Boston News, Weather, Sports

CONCORD, NH (AP) — The number of dams in New Hampshire most at risk of failure has risen 51% over the past three years, according to an Associated Press analysis.

The number of high-risk dams in poor or poor condition in the state rose from 37 to 56, according to the analysis released Thursday. All but one of those dams had a poor rating, with just one rated as poor.

Steve Doyon, the state’s chief dam safety engineer, said most dams are state-owned. He attributed the rise to structural problems with dams such as leaks, sinkholes and deterioration of the concrete. The other problem was that some spillways – which prevent water from flooding a dam – were unable to handle a historic flood.

“People would find it disturbing that a dam doesn’t meet state criteria,” Doyon said. “But at the same time, it’s about making sure these dams are able to withstand the inflows from extreme events. People shouldn’t worry about an imminent threat as these extreme events are rare.”

A nationwide analysis by the Associated Press found more than 2,200 high-hazard dams in poor or unsatisfactory condition in the US — a significant increase from a similar AP review conducted three years ago. The actual number is likely higher, although it’s unclear because some states don’t track such data and many federal agencies refuse to release details about the condition of their dams.

The country’s levees are, on average, over half a century old and often pose a greater hazard than originally anticipated because homes, businesses or highways have emerged beneath them. Meanwhile, a warming atmosphere may bring stronger storms with heavier rainfall that could overwhelm aging dams.

Many of the dams in New Hampshire were built decades, if not centuries, ago to provide water and power to textile mills and other manufacturing facilities. But today, most of the structures that hold back ponds and lakes are for recreation, drinking water, and hydroelectric power.

More than 50 dams have failed in New Hampshire in the past 100 years, although fatalities are rare. An exception was the Meadow Pond Dam, which failed in 1996, killing a woman and flooding a small neighborhood.

Some of the problems with high-risk dams date back years but have not been addressed due to a lack of funding or the inability or refusal of private owners to undertake repairs.

“The increasing number of dams in New Hampshire being classified as highly hazardous is putting our communities at risk and underscores the need for investment in the well-being and safety of our nation’s dams,” said New Hampshire Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster, who introduced a bill last year that would spend nearly $26 billion on repairs that would increase safety and increase the power-generating capacity of the country’s dams. It also calls for removing any dams that have survived their usefulness.

“Dams play a key role in our state’s waterway and energy infrastructure,” she said. “Especially as dams age and deteriorate, it is critical to our communities and our economy that we invest in these dams to boost clean energy production while taking action to preserve our rivers and protect the public seize.”

The state lobbied the US Treasury Department last year to set aside funds for the $1 trillion infrastructure contract, saying more than 50 state-owned dams required major repairs.

Doyon said his program has not heard of any infrastructure funding that would benefit dam safety. However, he is optimistic that the program could receive up to $35 million in pandemic funding to repair state and possibly municipal dams. He estimates that up to 16 dams could be repaired with money.

“Of course 16 from our list is important, but it doesn’t solve the whole problem,” he said.

(Copyright (c) 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed, or redistributed.)

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https://whdh.com/news/growing-number-of-new-hampshire-dams-pose-safety-risk/ New Hampshire’s growing number of dams pose a safety hazard – Boston News, Weather, Sports

Nate Jones

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