Last week, a Siberian hydroelectric dam failed when an explosion rocked the site’s turbine room, killing dozens and taking 6,000 megawatts of electricity offline.
While the tragedy’s ultimate causes are unclear, Russian media has been questioning the state of the aging Soviet-made infrastructure. Dams are getting older in the United States, too. The average age of America’s 80,000 dams is 51 years. More than 2,000 dams near population centers are in need of repair, according to statistics released this month by the Association of State Dam Safety Officials.
Last year, 140 dams were fixed, but inspectors discovered 368 more that need help. That’s why the American Society of Civil Engineers gave our dams a grade of “D” in its 2009 report on the nation’s infrastructure. There are just too many aging dams and too few safety inspectors.