Public safety is the number one priority of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The primary objective of our Dam Safety Program is to maintain public safety by making sure the dams we own and operate are safe and risks to the public are minimized.
An integral part of the Corps of Engineers Dam Safety Program is its risk-informed screening process, Screening Portfolio Risk Analysis. The Corps is focusing on projects with the most compelling dam safety issues first, as identified by this risk-informed screening process.
Screening Portfolio Risk Analysis screened dams are classified based upon confirmed or unconfirmed dam safety issues, the combination of life or economic consequences should failure occur and the probability of failure. This enables the Corps to prioritize dam safety actions to correct deficiencies, which includes interim risk reduction measures to be undertaken while further investigations are conducted and/or remedial actions are implemented.
East Branch Dam has a history of seepage related problems, including a serious episode in 1957 that required draining the lake until repairs could be made. There have been no observed changes in seepage conditions or performance of the dam in the time since repairs were completed. The dam functioned safely during the record pool event in 1972.
Our screening and classification of East Branch Dam identified this project as having unconfirmed (potentially unsafe) issues which merit further analysis and evaluation. We are taking a number of interim risk reduction measures in order to reduce the probability and consequences of dam failure while long term remedial measures are pursued. As a key interim risk reduction measure the dam will be operated at a reduced pool level.
Interim risk reduction measures are not long term solutions. They are designed to buy down or minimize risk to public safety in the short-term while pursuing long-term permanent modifications to a dam. They are an important step to minimize the probability of failure and/or consequence until a permanent fix can be implemented or investigations have determined that a potential failure mode is not probable.
East Branch Dam has received priority for further studies to better define and confirm the dam safety issues. Through this process, the Corps will determine whether or not the dam is in need of repairs and evaluate alternatives for permanent repair. The process of evaluation is expected to take about two years. We will continue to work with our stakeholders to keep them informed of the dam safety issues related to East Branch Dam.
The Pittsburgh District operates and maintains East Branch Dam in such a way as to minimize risk to the public. East Branch Dam is inspected and monitored closely. The dam is staffed seven days a week, 24 hours per day and is regularly inspected by project staff as well as engineers from the Pittsburgh District Office.