The Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts (AACD) announced Oct. 9 that inspections of some flood control dams found that they are "aging and some are in a neglected state."
The flood control dams were built by the United States Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through Public Law 83-566, the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act of 1954.
"Arkansas has over 200 small and medium sized dams located in this year's declared disaster areas," Kalven L. Trice, state conservationist for the NRCS said. "Most years, the dams provide $30.3 million of benefits through flood protection. This year, no doubt, their benefit was much higher."
Though the dams saved many low-lying areas from flooding in the spring floods earlier this year, they are getting old. According to the news release from the AACD, "Most of the flood control dams were built with a design life span of 50 years and many were built in the 1950s and 60s."
"A little arithmetic indicates we will be facing big problems in the near future," Debbie Moreland, program administrator of the AACD said.
The news release states, "Recent inspections highlighted the age of the dams and their need for rehabilitation. Many need updating to provide a higher level of safety due to increases in people living downstream, below the dam where they were not residing before. A few dams, predominately in the northeast part of the state, do not meet the necessary increased safety rating required by the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC)."
According to the release, the price tag on the rehabilitation of these dams can be costly. In 2000, Congress amended the Watershed Protection and Flood Control Act, allowing the NRCS to provide assistance to project sponsors in rehabilitating the dams. Currently, the federal government matches funding on a 65 percent cost share. State and local governments or sponsors, however, must provide the other 35 percent before the federal government can match the cost to rehabilitate the dams.
Molly Voeller of the AACD said the aging flood control dams does not affect the larger hydroelectric dams. "The AACD deals with all smaller dams," Voeller said.
According to the USDA Offices in Salem and Melbourne, there are no flood control dams in either Fulton or Izard counties.