2006 – An Overview of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Screening for Portfolio Risk Assessment for Dam Safety Program

David M. Schaaf, P.E., Jeff Schaefer, Ph.D., P.E., P.G

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has an inventory of over 600 dams. The main purpose of many of these dams is for flood control, but there are a significant number of dams primarily used for navigation. Additional benefits at many of these projects are provided through hydropower generation, recreation, and irrigation for farmers. Many of the dams are quite old and represent an aging infrastructure across the inventory. In addition, leaner budgets relative to the need for repairs across the aging system require that USACE invest wisely in order to efficiently use available funds to reduce the greatest risks across the inventory. Previously, individual projects with perceived deficiencies were evaluated separately by the responsible district. This evaluation was not compared in any programmatic way to other USACE dams being evaluated for deficiencies.

In order to improve the process of making risk-based decisions across the entire spectrum of USACE dams, the Screening for Portfolio Risk Assessment (SPRA) for the USACE Dam Safety Program was initiated during the summer of 2005. This effort represents the first level of a multiple phased effort to bring full scale risk assessment to the decision-making regarding making investment decisions associated with dam safety by linking engineering reliability with economic and life loss impacts on a relative scale. The SPRA effort involved the development of a tool for evaluating the relative life and economic risk of dam failures for a variety of deficiencies across the inventory of USACE dams. This paper will focus on the basic aspects of the evaluation tool as well as the process by which the screening was completed.


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