Late yesterday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved bipartisan legislation authorizing Army Corps of Engineer dam and water projects around the country.
Included in the bill at the request of Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) were two Welch-authored provisions to shore up aging dams around the country. The aging Waterbury Dam in Waterbury, VT would be eligible for refurbishment using these new funds.
The first Welch provision increases by $30 million federal funding for the overhaul of aging dams constructed by the Corps of Engineers before 1940. The second Welch provision raises the existing cap on the amount of funds that can be spent on any one project.
"In 2011, Waterbury suffered a devastating flood during Tropical Storm Irene. More catastrophic damage was prevented due to the existence of the aging Waterbury Dam. The provisions approved last night by the House will increase funding to refurbish outdated and hazardous dams across the country, including our Waterbury Dam."
The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is periodically approved by Congress to authorize the construction of projects to improve high-risk waterways, dams, and other water resources infrastructure to mitigate flood and storm damage. It also provides assistance for water recycling and treatment projects.
The Waterbury Dam was built between 1935 and 1938 by the Corps of Engineers to serve as one of three dams to control the flow of the Little River, the Winooski River and their tributaries. In 1927, flood waters from the Winooski River killed 55 people and caused an estimated $13,500,000 in damage. Along with flood control, the dam also generates electric energy, generating an average of 17,000,000 megawatt hours annually.
Rep. Welch's two initiatives build on a measure included in the 2016 WRDA law by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that authorized efforts to study, design, and construct control gates, spillways, and dam safety improvements for aging flood control reservoirs constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers before 1940.