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Feds award $420M for dam repairs, flood-control projects

(AP) — The federal government said Thursday that will spend about $420 million to repair dams and develop flood control projects in dozens of states, marking the latest infusion of cash from a federal infrastructure law.

The projects include improvements to several high hazard dams in poor condition that could jeopardize lives if they were to fail. The money is flowing through two watershed programs run by the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The largest allotment of nearly $96 million will go to Arkansas for 19 flood control projects, including several in impoverished areas that have seen significant flooding over the past five years.

More than $69 million of projects will be funded in Georgia, including $21.5 million for three dams north of Atlanta that were built 60 to 70 years ago. Since their construction, the areas downstream from the dams have become urbanized, creating a high hazard if they were to give way and unleash a flood.

Assessments indicate the dams don’t have spillway outlets capable of handling all the potential the water from a big storm, said David Griffin, manager of Georgia’s Safe Dams Program.

Funding also is included for improvements to dams in Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia. In some cases, the money will fund only the planning for future repairs, such as for a series of five earthen dams on West Virginia’s Saltllick Creek that protect about 1,500 residences from floods.

The number of high hazard dams — those likely to kill someone if they failed — that are rated in poor or unsatisfactory condition has been rising across the U.S. as new developments crop up downstream and necessary maintenance is deferred.

The $1 trillion infrastructure bill signed last year by President Joe Biden includes billions of dollars for dams and flood control projects. Thursday’s announcement includes funding for 132 water-related projects in 31 states. That’s in addition to $166 million for 108 projects in 23 states announced last month through the same two agriculture programs, the Watershed Rehabilitation Program and the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program.

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