Flooding, dam scare underscore need for investment in water infrastructure, dam safety, river restoration

Hurricane Ida’s heavy winds and rain brought destruction to the Gulf Coast last August and days later, communities across the Northeast of the US were devastated by flooding in the hurricane’s path. Dozens of people lost their lives in the floodwaters. Three thousand people in Johnstown, Pennsylvania had to evacuate due to the threat of failure at Wilmore Dam on the Little Conemaugh River.

Emphasising the importance in protecting communities in the face of increasing severe floods fuelled by climate change, Brain Graber, senior director of river restoration at American Rivers, said: “Hurricane Ida is yet another wake-up call. We urgently need solutions that are equitable, nature-based, and resilient in the face of climate change.”

Graber urged the Congress to take an opportunity in the infrastructure bill and reconciliation package to take important steps to protect public safety. This includes giving rivers and floodways more room to keep people out of harm’s way and improving urban stormwater management. He also suggested investing in dam safety and dam removal to improve public safety and enhance the ability of rivers to carry and absorb floodwaters.

“Many aging dams are ticking time bombs, and dam failures can cause tremendous loss to life and property,” he concluded. “We urge Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Schumer to make investment in dam safety, river restoration and water infrastructure a top priority in the infrastructure and reconciliation efforts.”