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Memorandum to the Heads of Certain Federal Agencies on Dam Safety

April 23, 1977

Memorandum for the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of the Army, the Director, Office of Management and Budget, the President's Adviser on Science and Technology, the Chairman, Federal Power Commission, the Chairman, Tennessee Valley Authority, the Commissioner, U.S. Section, International Boundary and Water Commission

The safety of dams has been a principal concern of Federal agencies that are involved with the various aspects of their planning, construction, operation and ultimate disposal. Events of the past several years have highlighted the need to review procedures and criteria that are being employed by these agencies with the objective of ensuring that the most effective mechanisms are established to give the best assurance of dam safety possible within the limitations of the current state of knowledge available to the scientific and engineering communities. The safety of such projects should continue to be accorded highest consideration, and it is the responsibility of the head of each agency concerned to ensure the adequacy of his agency's dam safety program.

I. Agency Dam Safety Reviews

The head of each Federal agency responsible for, or involved with site selection, design, construction, certification or regulation, inspection, maintenance and operation, repair and ultimate disposition of dams shall immediately undertake a thorough review of practices which could affect the safety and integrity of these structures. This review will encompass all activities which can be controlled or regulated by the agency.

Several aspects of the problem require special attention. In particular, the following items should be investigated: the means of inclusion of new technological methods into existing structures and procedures; the degree to which probabilistic or risk-based analysis is incorporated into the process of site selection, design, construction, and operation; the degree of reliance on in-house, interagency, and outside expert interpretation of geologic data in site selection and design development; the effect on dam safety of earthquake or other earth movement hazards; the effects of cost-saving incentives on decisions both prior to and during construction; the procedures by which dam safety problems are identified, analyzed and solved; the involvement of local communities in identifying, analyzing and solving dam safety questions; and the major outstanding dam safety problems of the agency.

II. Interagency Report and Proposed Guidelines

The Chairman of the Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (FCCSET) shall convene an ad hoc interagency committee to coordinate dam safety programs, seeking consistency and commonality as appropriate, and providing recommendations as to the means of improving the effectiveness of the Government-wide dam safety effort. The agency reviews described above should be provided to the FCCSET as a basis for the interagency analysis on a timetable established by the FCCSET group as reasonable and consistent with the October 1, 1977 deadline for a final report. Representation on the FCCSET for this activity should be expanded .to include other appropriate Federal agencies or departments including, but not limited to, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the United States Section-International Boundary and Water Commission and the Federal Power Commission. The FCCSET effort will include preparation of proposed Federal dam safety guidelines for management procedures to ensure dam safety. FCCSET should report on all these items.

III. Independent Review Panel

In addition, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy will arrange for review of agency regulations, procedures and practices, .and of the proposed federal dam safety guidelines, .by a panel of recognized experts to be established immediately. The panel will obtain the views and advice of established organizations, professional societies, and others concerned with the safety of dams. The purpose of this review is to advise the President as to the adequacy of procedures and regulations throughout the Federal Government to ensure the safety of dams which are in any way affected by a Federal role.

The review and a report thereon should be completed no later than October 1, 1978.


Note: The text of the memorandum was released on April 26.

Jimmy Carter, Memorandum to the Heads of Certain Federal Agencies on Dam Safety Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243672

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