|Many U.S. dams are rated "high hazard." Click on FEMA map to enlarge it.|
The investigators say similar problems could be happening in other dams all over the country, and inspectors may not catch them if they continue to overrely on visual inspections. "The panel called on regulators to supplement visual checks with painstaking reviews of original design and construction specifications, as well as maintenance records, with an eye toward finding 'design shortcomings' that contrast with current state-of-the-art practices," the Bee reports. "The reviews should go beyond spillways and take in the entire dam structure."
Federal dam inspections are handled by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In May, FERC said it was re-evaluating dam safety inspections because of Oroville. FERC's most recent inspection of the Oroville dam in 2014 "concluded that the a failure of the flood-control spillway at Oroville was so unlikely that there was no need to plan for such an emergency," the Bee reports.