Dam Safety Program

Mankind has long recognized that the impoundment of large amounts of water is a potentially hazardous undertaking. The USACE Dam Safety Program uses a risk-informed approach to manage its portfolio of over 700 dams.   The Dam Safety Program seeks to ensure that U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)  owned and operated dams do not present unacceptable risks to people, property, or the environment, with the emphasis on people.  Life safety is the program’s number one priority.   Dam Safety is a continuous process that involves dam monitoring, inspection, training, dam design and dam performance assessments, flood and breach consequence assessments, flood and breach risk communication, and emergency exercises.  This risk-informed approach is a best practice adopted to develop balanced and informed dam safety assessments and to efficiently prioritize and justify dam management and modification decisions.




USACE dams are designed to safely pass large amounts of water, far more water than anyone downstream has experienced.  A number of our dams are designed to safely pass the largest flood event thought to be possible.  USACE produces inundation mapping for these dams to show the estimated limits of flooding due to dam operations during large and/or extreme flood events.  USACE also produces flood maps for many of our larger dams to estimate the limits of truly catastrophic flooding in the event a dam fails.   These maps are produced and shared for flood emergency planning and preparedness.   The current USACE policy is that, when inundation mapping is available, that it is shared not only with federal, state, and local emergency management agencies, but also with the public.  The intent of sharing these maps with the public is so that individuals are aware of unlikely, but possible, flooding and take measures accordingly to reduce their personal risk due to extreme flooding or dam failure.  Accordingly, in January 2022, USACE has made inundation mapping available to all online through the National Inventory of Dams.