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Safety of Dams

The International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), composed of a U.S. Section and a Mexican Section, is charged with carrying out the provisions of a number of treaties between the United States and Mexico.  Among its responsibilities, the Commission has jurisdiction over two large international storage dams (Amistad and Falcon), and four diversion dams (International, Anzalduas, Retamal, and Morelos) on the Rio Grande and Colorado Rivers.  Additionally, the U.S. Section is responsible for the maintenance of American Diversion Dam and five sediment and flood control dams (Broad, Crow, Green, Berrenda, and Jaralosa) owned by the Caballo Soil and Water Conservation District, which are not fully international in nature. 

The international dams under IBWC jurisdiction are jointly operated and maintained by the United States and Mexican Sections of IBWC.   Due to the international character of the dams under the jurisdiction of the IBWC, the National Dam Inspection Act of 1972 (Public Law 92-367) exempted IBWC dams from inspection by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but it did not exempt the United States Section from the Act’s Dam Safety provisions. 

Dam Safety Policy
The policy of the United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission is:

1) To carry out the policy and directives of the Congress and the President concerning the Dam Safety provisions, and
2) Maintain an agreement with the Mexican Section for a joint Dam Safety program.   

The overall objective of the IBWC dam safety program is to operate and maintain IBWC dams in a safe and efficient manner for compliance with the Federal Guidelines for Dam Safety (FEMA 93), and enhance security of the international dams in accordance with the President’s Security and Prosperity Partnership initiative.    

Dam Safety Program            
The agency has in place a Dam Safety Program that is deemed in compliance with the Federal Guidelines for Dam Safety and supported by the efforts of the USACE, Geotechnical Division, Fort Worth Region.  Review of the agency's program, and inspection of the agency's structures, occurs on a 5-year cycle with technical reviews and inspections.  These 5-year safety of dams inspections are conducted by a bi-national staff, with review and recommendations being made by the Technical Advisors of both Sections of IBWC (USACE and CONAGUA). 

The 5-year safety of dams inspections were performed for the following dams:  1) American and Morelos Diversion Dams in 2006, 2) Amistad, Falcon, Anzalduas, and Retamal dams in 2007, and 3) International Diversion Dam 2008.  Furthermore, weekly or monthly inspections are also performed by our field office personnel on all the dams.  Monthly and annual inspection reports are prepared for all dams by our Area Operations Managers.  Flood and sediment control dams, owned by the Caballo Soil and Water Conservation District, are inspected jointly on an annual basis.  Inspection is by engineers of the New Mexico Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) District Office and U.S. Section of the IBWC.  Additionally, 5-year Dam Safety inspections are performed by the New Mexico State Engineer Office.  The NRCS and the New Mexico State Engineers prepare the annual and the 5-year safety of dams inspection reports for each of these sediment dams.

Color Code
The USACE inspection team applied a risk based action classification rating that will be used for all the IBWC dams.  The USACE inspection team place each dam into Dam Safety Action Classes (DSAC) based on their individual dam safety risk considered as probability of failure and potential failure consequences.  This rating allows the dam owner to focus, address, and fund the most important dam safety issues.  The five Dam Safety Action Classes and applied color code are as follows:

Color Code                 Dam Safety Action Classes
Red                             DSAC I – URGENT AND COMPELLING (Unsafe)
Orange                       DSAC II – URGENT (Potentially Unsafe)
Yellow                         DSAC III – HIGH PRIORITY (Conditionally Unsafe)
Blue                            DSAC IV – PRIORITY (Marginally Safe)
Green                         DSAC V – NORMAL (Safe)

American | Amistad | Anzalduas | Falcon | Morelos | Retamal | Sediment