The breach of two Michigan dams last Tuesday sparked concerns about the aging infrastructures’ sufficiency against severing climate changes.
Scientists warn that the increasing dam failures in U.S. can cause death and environmental destruction as extreme precipitation and storms set in more frequently.
According to Hiba Baroud, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Vanderbilt University, the aging dams need to be maintained and upgraded, while when it is in most extreme cases, the entire design of the infrastructure must be considered.
Based on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, both dams are classified as a “high” hazard potential that means ‘a failure has a potential result to loss in life’.
Data shows the two dams were completed in 1925. That makes them older than the typical 56 year-old American dams, said the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Noah Diffenbaugh, Standard University climate scientist, stated that the combinations of these three factors: aging infrastructure; older design guidelines; and increasing probability of extreme events due to global warming, raise the overall risk of these kind of situations.
The last inspection of the two dams dates back in June 2018. The same year Edenville Dam and Sanford Dam, under the owner of Boyce Hydro Power, ranked as unsatisfactory and fair condition, respectively.
Since 2014 the company received warning from the federal regulators for Edenville Dam about its inadequate capacity to carry “probable” heavy flooding event.
Baroud suggested that if the dams can’t be fixed immediately, its operations should have dropped to a lower level to lessen impact for a great torrent of water during extreme weather.
Operating in this level slows down the water in draining through gated passages and valves which avoids future flooding during emergency.