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BC-US–Dams-Legacy of Neglect, US

Editors and News Directors:

The Associated Press has published a data project about the nation’s aging and neglected dams. The content _ which includes a mainbar, sidebar, photos, video and an interactive _ was sent to customers in advance and is now available for use.

Along with the stories, the AP has shared with its data customers the raw data and documents behind its analysis, which found that at least 1,680 dams nationwide meet two criteria: They are considered high hazard because of their potential for loss of life if they are breached, and they have been determined through state inspections to be in poor or unsatisfactory condition. The data and accompanying inspection reports illustrate a widespread failure to maintain a critical piece of the nation’s infrastructure.



The dataset includes general information _ including age, ownership type, primary purpose and last inspection date _ for 82,000 dams in the U.S. and territories.

Of those, at least 1,680 dams in 44 states and Puerto Rico are rated as high hazard and in poor condition. For these, the AP has collected and is sharing inspection reports and emergency action plans detailing potential problems.

Additional datasets include state staffing and budgets for dam inspections, as well as FEMA grants to 26 states for dam repairs. The data sets are being made available to customers enrolled in AP’s platform.

Text boilerplate to help reporters localize their stories is included within the data distribution.



The AP hosted a webinar on Oct. 22, to explain the dataset and included documents, and to offer tips for localizations. To access the webinar recording, email State Government Team Editor Tom Verdin at



The mainbar, its abridged version, the sidebar and photos moved in advance for use beginning 12:01 a.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 10. The embed code for the interactive has been distributed to AP graphics customers, and the video will move Sunday evening.




America’s dams, most of which were built more than half a century ago, are in a state of decay that is endangering thousands of people who live downstream. An investigation by The Associated Press, based on federal data and records obtained separately over a more than two-year period from virtually every state, identified at least 1,600 high-hazard dams that are rated in poor or unsatisfactory condition. The potential danger to downstream communities is compounded by climate change, which is expected to cause more frequent and severe storms that could overwhelm deficient dams and out-of-date spillways. By David A. Lieb, Michael Casey and Michelle Minkoff. SENT: 3,000 words, photos, video, interactive, AP data distribution, 1,050-word abridged version.


DAMS-LEGACY OF NEGLECT-GRANTS _ the Federal Emergency Management Agency is beginning to disperse $10 million in grants for high hazard dams that have failed safety standards or pose an unacceptable risk to the public. The grants announced this fall for 26 states will fund preliminary steps such as risk assessments and engineering designs, but not the actual repairs. The amount represents a drop in the bucket of the estimated $70 billion price tag to repair and modernize the nation’s aging dams. By David A. Lieb. SENT: 500 words.


_ AP sidebars for specific states, detailed in state-level advisories.



The photo package contains images of several dams around the U.S. as well as file images of dams that have failed in recent years and homeowners living near the dams.



The video package will contain footage from the scene of a recent dam failure and from a large municipal dam on the watch list, as well as file footage from two fatal dam failures and interviews with three dam-safety experts.



More than 1,600 high hazard dams in unsatisfactory or poor condition are displayed on a zoomable interactive map that provides information about the dams, the latest dates of their inspections and emergency action plans, and their compliance with state inspection regulations. By Esri, a mapping and analytics company. The embed code has been distributed to AP graphics customers.



For questions about the data, contact AP Data and News Applications Editor Troy Thibodeaux at For questions about the package, contact State Government Team Editor Tom Verdin at

The AP

Associated Press


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