Dam Infrastructrure Essay

Submitted By Sean-Carson
Words: 3240
Pages: 13

In today’s world even politicians agree, “Infrastructure is not sexy” (CNN Newsroom), said by Ret. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Infrastructure is one of the biggest internal threats to the United States, and we hardly ever discuss it within our political system. Theodore Roosevelt, president of the United States from 1901-1909, understood the importance of conservation of natural resources and development of water power on the nation’s rivers. This drove the United States into an era of dam construction throughout numerous rivers, both great and minor (Jenkins, John Wilbur). Dams have an average life span of 50 years, and 25% of the dams in the Army Corps of Engineers National Inventory of Dams are now more than 50 years old. This number is projected to increase to 85% by the year 2020. Consequently, we are already seeing huge structural failures and problems within the United States, some examples are Hawaii, Oklahoma, and Arizona. Each of these states hold a D (60% or below-average) grade point average (GPA) on the United States Report Card for Dam Infrastructure (Corps of Engineers). The United States public interest in building dams arose on October 1, 1933, when “The Oregonian” newspaper of Portland printed a headline saying, “Bonneville Dam Calls for Impressive Changes in Columbia Gorge,” the newspaper reported: “All eyes turn toward Bonneville, chosen site for a $31,000,000 dam for development of power and navigation in the mighty Columbia.” Seasonal floods, jutting rocks and relentless cascades are the legacy of the undeveloped river, but that soon would all change, the newspaper reported: “The march of progress finally has overtaken Old Man River. The Columbia will undergo transformations, both visible and invisible, at the hands of man.” Hydropower, is the lasting legacy of British Columbia, where dams to this day provide more than half of the electricity consumed in the Pacific Northwest. President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, embraced the concept of multiple-purpose dams that would create slackwater for navigation, provide flood control, and generate hydropower. In 1906, and again in 1910 after he left office, the General Dam Acts authorized the federal government to license water power dams on navigable rivers. Water power became a national issue under Roosevelt. In 1907 he created the Inland Waterways Commission to study development of the nation’s rivers, and in February 1908 the Commission delivered its preliminary report to Congress. The report declared rivers are assets of the people, warned about monopolies taking over river development, and endorsed multiple-purpose development of rivers (Harrison, John). In the report, Roosevelt wrote: “Our river systems are better adapted to the needs of the people than those of any other country . . . Yet the rivers of no other civilized country are so poorly developed, so little used, or play so small a part in the industrial life of the nation as those of the United States” (Survey). Among members of the Commission, only the Army Corps of Engineers disagreed with Roosevelt’s view that rivers should be developed for multiple purposes (Harrison, John).
The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is a U.S. federal agency under the Department of Defense that was founded on June 16, 1775; the USACE is a major Army command made up of some 37,000 civilian and military personnel, making it one of the world's largest public-engineering, design, and construction management agencies. Although generally associated with dams, canals and flood protection in the United States, USACE is involved in a wide range of public works throughout the world. The Corps of Engineers provides outdoor recreation opportunities to the public, and provides 24% of U.S. hydropower capacity. The corps' mission is to "Deliver vital public and military engineering services; partnering in peace and war to strengthen our Nation's security, energize the economy and reduce risks from