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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ENGINEERING TOOLS FOR SAFE, EFFICIENT HYDRAULIC STRUCTURES AND CHANNELS

Location: Hydraulic Engineering Research

Title: Retention of institutional knowledge and technical capacity for repair and rehabilitation of NRCS-assisted watershed dams

Authors
item Freeland, Joe -
item Caldwell, Larry -
item Hunt, Sherry
item Locke, Mark -
item Moore, James -

Submitted to: National Watershed Conference National Watershed Coalition
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: May 17, 2011
Publication Date: May 17, 2011
Citation: Freeland, J.D., Caldwell, L.W., Hunt, S.L., Locke, M.A., Moore, J. 2011. Retention of institutional knowledge and technical capacity for repair and rehabilitation of NRCS-assisted watershed dams. In: Proceedings of the 12th National Watershed Conference, National Watershed Coalition, May 15-18, 2011, Oklahoma City, OK. CDROM.

Interpretive Summary: The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and local project sponsors have constructed more than 11,000 dams across the U.S. Nationally, an average of one dam will reach the end of its 50-year planned service life every day for the next two decades. Maintaining and rehabilitating these dams poses serious challenges for dam owners. Some of these dams are experiencing physical problems while others no longer meet current dam safety standards because of downstream development. Projects sponsors and dam owners have relied on the technical assistance from the federal government, but looming retirements of the federal workforce places this assistance in jeopardy. Additionally, a similar situation exists with projects sponsors with fast approaching retirements. The trends seen in the federal workforce and project sponsors, and the uncertainty of the direction of future administrations, make it imperative that we focus now on ways to equip future generations to adequately deal with the challenges they will face in addressing the needs of these aging dams. How do we transfer this knowledge to a workforce that didn't exist during the dam building boom of the last 60 years? What information, expertise, technology, and communication methods are they going to need? Who are they going to rely on for answers? How will the records and technical materials associated with these dams be archived so that they are readily available? The objective of this paper is to discuss these questions and other challenges that will be faced by future generations in addressing the rehabilitation of our aging dams.

Technical Abstract: The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) along with project sponsors have constructed more than 11,000 dams across the U.S. The peak of construction was in the 1960's with the dams primarily designed with a 50 year planned service life. Over the next two decades, an average of one dam a day will reach the end of its planned service life. The age of the infrastructure creates challenges in their maintenance and rehabilitation. Physical problems including seepage, sedimentation, and structural deterioration exist for some dams, while others no longer meet dam safety standards because of changes in their demographics with increased populations upstream and downstream of the structures. Technical and financial assistance is provided by the federal government to project sponsors and dam owners, but retirements of the federal workforce places this assistance in jeopardy. Retirements are also fast approaching for project sponsors. The trends seen in the federal workforce and project sponsors, and the uncertainty of the direction of future administrations, make it imperative to focus on ways to equip future generations with adequate ways to address the needs of these aging dams. Questions like how do we transfer this engineering and project knowledge to a workforce that didn't exist during the dam building boom of the last 60 years or what information, expertise, technology, and communication methods are future generations going to need? Who are they going to rely on for answers? How will the records and technical materials associated with these dams be archived so that they are readily available? The objective of this paper is to discuss these questions and other challenges that will be faced by future generations in addressing the rehabilitation of aging dams.

Last Modified: 10/1/2014
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