On July 15, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) introduced the Twenty-First Century Dams Act, a bill that would invest $21.1 billion to enhance the safety, grid resilience benefits and power generating capacity of America’s dams and provide historic funding to remove dams that are no longer necessary.

Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives on July 9th by Representatives Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) and Don Young (R-Ala.). They were joined by Kim Schrier M.D. (D-Wash.), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), and Scott Peters (D-Calif.) in introducing the legislation.

The Twenty-First Century Dams Act will:

  • Improve Public Safety: Invests in state dam safety capabilities, expands grant funding for the rehabilitation of existing dams, and makes available low-interest loans to rehabilitate non-federal dams. 
  • Enhance Clean Energy Production and Grid Resilience: Creates a 30% investment tax credit at qualifying dams for safety, environmental improvements, grid flexibility, and dam removals, and invests in existing federal dams to improve their safety and renewable energy generating capacity. 
  • Restore River Ecosystems: Authorizes an interagency and stakeholder advisory committee to help administer a public source of climate resilience and conservation funding to reconnect 10,000 miles of rivers through the removal of 1,000 dams with owner consent. 

ASDSO is proud to support these bills along with a diverse group of partners, including The Nature Conservancy, American Society of Civil Engineers, Low Impact Hydropower Institute, American Rivers, Hydropower Reform Coalition, National Hydropower Association, World Wildlife Fund, Hydropower Foundation, Rye Development, Hydropower Reform Coalition, Union of Concerned Scientists and Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Dams can be an overlooked component of our nation’s infrastructure despite playing a critical role in water delivery, agriculture, flood control, hydropower, and recreation. As we have seen through recent failures, deficient and unregulated dams pose a public safety threat to thousands of U.S. citizens, their property, and the environment.  Recent failures in Michigan caused $200 million in damages to 2500 homes and buildings. The failure of Spencer Dam in Nebraska in 2019 cost a downstream homeowner his life, and the 2017 spillway incident at Oroville Dam in California forced 180,000 people to be evacuated from their homes. This funding will repair hundreds of critical aging and deficient dams, develop Emergency Action Plans, and inspect high- and significant-hazard potential dams that have been ignored for years. 

ASDSO strongly encourages our members, partners, and the public to play their part and support these efforts.  To learn more about dam safety issues and challenges and what we can do to improve dam safety, we invite you to visit our Roadmap to Reducing Dam Safety Risks page.