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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau

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Dam Safety Lives Today: It's Not Just an Historic Event

National Dam Safety Awareness Day occurs on May 31 of each year, commemorating the failure of the South Fork Dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1889. This event resulted in the loss of more than 2,200 lives and is considered the worst dam failure in the history of the United States. 

While dams provide many benefits to communities, such as storage of drinking water and improvement of wildlife habitats, they can also pose a flood risk if they fail. Dam safety is a shared responsibility and everyone is encouraged to know their role and when to take action.

Dam 1 in the Bull Run Watershed 
Dam 1 in the Bull Run Watershed

The Portland Water Bureau owns seven major dams: two dams in the Bull Run Watershed, three Mt. Tabor Reservoir Dams, and two Washington Park Reservoir Dams. The Hydroelectric Power Section of the Water Bureau administers a dam safety program, assessing the stability of each of the dams and monitoring the structures for any sign of instability.

For each of those structures, periodic updated stability analyses are conducted, monitoring data is collected and analyzed, periodic inspections are conducted, and then Emergency Action Plans are updated and tested. 

National Dam Safety Awareness Day not only encourages and promotes responsibility for dam safety by both individuals and the community, but it’s a day to discuss and train on ways to prevent future catastrophic dam failures.  


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