WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bill that would clear the way for critical safety upgrades to Scoggins Dam in Oregon and dams across the western United States took a step forward when it passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today.
Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley introduced the bill (S. 1946) earlier this year to raise the Bureau of Reclamation Safety of Dams spending cap and allow construction of safety upgrades to proceed, including Scoggins Dam in Washington County which has plans for seismic improvements. Also scheduled for safety modification is Hyatt Dam in Jackson County.
“The need to upgrade these dams is clear,” Wyden said. “Renewing this program will allow communities in Oregon to breathe easier knowing that federal facilities like Scoggins Dam will get the upgrades that are so crucial to keeping areas like the Tualatin Valley safe.”
“We are moving forward on an issue that is critically important to communities across Oregon, and that is ensuring that dams like the Scoggins Dam receive vital safety upgrades as they age,” Merkley said. “Arbitrary federal limits should not stand in the way of repairs and improvements that could save lives in the event of an earthquake.”
The committee included Wyden’s amendment to the bill to authorize $1.1 billion for safety construction projects to the 476 dams and dikes the Bureau of Reclamation manages. Of those, 77 percent are classified as “high” or “significant hazard,” meaning failure of the structures could result in significant damages or even loss of life to communities if they are not upgraded. The costs to improve safety and reliability continue to rise because most of Reclamation’s dams are more than 60 years old.
The committee passed the bill by a voice vote. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water also authorized $1.1 billion for the Safety of Dams program in a markup yesterday.
Wyden is a senior member and the former chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The bill will now go to the full Senate for a vote.
Watch the full markup here.