RP urged to establish dam safety program
- Dino Balabo () - July 27, 2010 - 12:00am

HAGONOY, Bulacan, Philippines – A Filipino dam safety expert based in the United States urged the Aquino government to establish a national dam safety program after a series of earthquakes jolted Mindanao over the weekend.

The call for a national dam safety program came after a dam in the State of Iowa burst on Friday and left cities in four Midwestern US Sates underwater.

Earlier, Bulacan Gov. Wilhelmino Alvarado called for earthquake proofing of the Angat Dam in Norzagaray, Bulacan, after Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) revealed that the dam is sitting on the Marikina West Valley Fault Line that stretches down to Taal Lake in the province of Batangas.

“It’s very urgent. Nobody can assure the safety of dams. Even in the US, dams fail for many reasons,” Engineer Roderick De la Cruz said in an email to The STAR.

A civil engineering graduate from the Mapua Institute of Technology (MIT) and resident of this coastal town, De la Cruz is a registered professional engineer in the State of California and has over 16 years of experience in the field of civil/structural engineering.

He has handled various projects as lead (project) engineer in the United States and other parts of the world, and is currently the lead dam safety engineer responsible for the safety of 12 dams owned and operated by Southern California Edison (SCE).

De la Cruz said that dams fail due to many reasons like operational issues, maintenance, poor design and construction, and extreme natural events like historical precipitation and earthquakes.

Citing materials published by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), he said, “Throughout history, in all parts of the world, dams built to store water have occasionally failed and discharged the stored waters to inflict sometimes incalculable damage in the loss of lives and great damage to property.”

De la Cruz mentioned the failure of the two-year old St. Francis Dam in Southern California in March 1928 that killed 450 people and left hundreds homeless. It is one of California’s worst catastrophes, he said.

Built in 1926, St. Francis Dam burst and walls of water, trees and boulders crashed down the San Francisquito Canyon into the Santa Clara Valley River.

He said that a state commission reported that the dam failed because it was ill-built in a geologically unstable site, and prompted state legislature to create the Division on Safety of Dams (DSOD) in 1929, and the US Congress’ enactment of the Public Law 92-367 or the US “National Dam Inspection Act” in 1972.

A FILIPINO ANGAT DAM BULACAN BULACAN GOV CRUZ DAM ENGINEER RODERICK DE FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY MAPUA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY ST. FRANCIS DAM UNITED STATES
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