With the most recent update of this data, NICAR no longer has to scrape the information. However, we have downloaded the data, performed integrity checks and updated documentation. We are pleased to provide this dataset for free to IRE members.
The National Inventory of Dams (NID) contains records on dams in all 50 states, kept by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.Dams are included if they meet at least one of the following criteria:-- High hazard classification - loss of one human life is likely if the dam fails,-- Significant hazard classification - possible loss of human life and likely significant property or environmental destruction,-- Equal or exceed 25 feet in height and exceed 15 acre-feet in storage,-- Equal or exceed 50 acre-feet storage and exceed 6 feet in height.For a reporter covering infrastructure or breaking news involving one of these structures, the NID is an important resource. Journalists have used the data to produce stories on aging infrastructure, emergency preparedness and lack of adequate dam inspections.
Here's a sample of the individual dam inspection records from the latest National Inventory of Dams:
The authors list and explain sources for infrastructure data, such as the National Bridge Inventory, Consolidated Federal Funds Reports, and the Highway Safety Information System. For each source, the authors describe what sort of data is available and how it can be used for CAR stories. The authors also list additional resources and other tipsheets on the same topic.
Oldies but Goodies: Probes into Dams and Bridges
Davidson breaks this tipsheet into two sections: bridges and dams. For each part, he first suggests possible issues to investigate, and then makes some suggestions on how to proceed. For example, one of his suggestions for dams is an investigation of whether or not local dams have emergency action plans in place. The suggestions on how to proceed include various helpful websites, as well as tips on data analysis.
CAR for Broadcast
Porter describes various data-based stories that make good broadcast investigations, including campus crime and dams. Porter describes the data needed for each story, and then gives examples of how stations have run those types of stories in the past.
Disaster Ahead? Deregulated Dams
A Tennessee law allows old watershed dams to be downgraded to farm ponds from high-hazard dams, exempting them from state safety inspections. The reporter discovered 13 of these dams were downgraded in 2008. The lack of oversight poses serious consequences because fatalities are likely to occur should one of the dams fail.
There are several "high hazard" dams in Maryland which the state Department of the Environment considers unsafe and a threat to public safety. Some of these dams are in imminent danger of failing. A "high hazard" dam indicates that a collapse would cause loss of life and damage to residential, industrial or agricultural areas, public utilities and infrastructure. The story detailed lax enforcement of rules and regulations when a dam owner is told by state inspectors to fix problems.
By national standards, 1,228 dams in Missouri should have Emergency Action Plans to help with the evacuation of people living downstream if the dam should fail. According to the state's own records, only 33 do. When KOMU tried to verify that at least those 33 actually did have the plans on file, only three were found.