Army Corps Opening Dam Safety Loan Program

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2023


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently launched a new $7.5 billion credit assistance program for dam safety projects.

“Aging infrastructure causes significant challenges to all levels of government, in particular dam infrastructure. This program will have a huge impact on the nation’s dam infrastructure and will help save local ratepayers and taxpayers by providing long-term, low-cost financing,” said Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commanding general.

About the Financing

The Corps Water Infrastructure Financing Program aims to provide flexible loans for dam safety projects and accelerate non-federal investment in United States dam infrastructure. Open to dams listed in the National Inventory of Dams, the loans will be used for projects that are focused on maintain, upgrading and repairing the structures.

The inventory notes that, of the 91,807 dams identified in the list, the average age is 61 years, with 5% being federally regulated and 71% being state regulated.

According to USACE, key features of the loan program include:

  • Long-term, low-cost credit assistance for water resource infrastructure projects (currently limited to dam safety projects that are non-federally owned, operated, and maintained);
  • Funding of up to 49% of project costs, or up to 80% of project costs for projects that serve economically disadvantaged communities;
  • Augmenting of other public or private funding and financing sources;
  • Requirement of a dedicated source of repayment (i.e., state or local taxes, user fees, etc.); and
  • Availablilty to projects or group of projects with eligible costs in excess of $20 million.

“Today’s posting of the Notice of Funding Availability for the Corps Water Infrastructure Financing Program provides a new and significant tool that can be used to keep the nation’s infrastructure resilient and dependable for multiple generations,” said Michael Connor, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.

 “As we deal with unprecedented climate challenges that require robust and effective infrastructure, this new financing program will enable continued investment by our local communities in their infrastructure.”

The CWIFP is currently in its inaugural application period, with a Notice of Funding Ability posted in the Federal Register. The Army Corps adds that it is also working to begin issuing loans to qualified non-federal borrowers.

Dam Infrastructure Needs

Back in April, a report from the Association of State Dam Safety Officials found that the estimated cost to rehabilitate just the non-federal dams is $157.5 billion. The cost to rehabilitate just the most critical dams is estimated at $34.1 billion.

ASDSO reported that the estimates were based on actual dam rehabilitation costs for non-federal dam repairs over the past 10 years and estimated costs for known upcoming projects.

This included nationwide cost data for more than 500 projects, including dam removals. Project costs ran from $10,000 for small projects to more than $500 million for large complex projects.

Rehabilitation, ASDSO explains, becomes necessary as dams age, technical standards and techniques improve, and downstream populations and land use change. However, the cost of rehabilitation can be high, and costs are reportedly rising significantly.

The association attributed this increase to a combination of factors, including escalated costs for construction materials and labor, as well as the increased breadth of current engineering studies and analyses. 

Additionally, the overall number of dams needing rehabilitation has increased due to the identification of deficiencies outpacing the completion of rehabilitation projects. Funding and permitting constraints contribute significantly to the slower rate of completion.

The report outlines that there are more than 88,600 non-federal dams in the United States. The number of high-hazard potential dams, where loss of life is probable should the dams fail, has increased almost 20% over the past 10 years to more than 16,000.

States reportedly regulate 70% of dams, while federal agencies regulate or own 5% of U.S. dams and the rest are unregulated. Approximately 65% of dams are privately owned, and about 31% are owned by federal, tribal, state or local governments. The rest are owned by quasi-governmental utilities or unknown ownership.

   

Tagged categories: Funding; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Locks and dams; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Rehabilitation/Repair; Safety; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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