July 10, 2014, The Wall Street Journal
DALLAS—Texas has stopped inspecting 44% of the dams in the state, following passage last year of a state law that exempted most privately owned dams from safety requirements.
Now, as a drought dries up large portions of the Southwest, some dam-safety experts and officials are questioning the law, saying the dry spell is leaving webs of cracks along the surface of earthen dams that may make them weaker—and prone to triggering floods—when rains eventually fill them up again.
“There are dozens of dams out there, if not more, that potentially could impact people. But you’re not really sure until they’ve been looked at,” said John Wolfhope, a civil engineer based in Austin who sits on the National Dam Safety Review Board and who testified about an earlier version of the law.