Army Corps installs danger signs along check dams, reminds public of safety risks

USACE, Baltimore District
Published April 12, 2021

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, in coordination with local partners, is installing danger signs along several check dams associated with its southern New York flood risk management projects. These dams can pose serious safety risks to the public when they are used recreationally.

Check dams reduce water flow velocity during high-water events and help prevent erosion. There are several check dams across the southern tier of New York along the Susquehanna River in Hornell (Canacadea, Crosby and Chauncey Run creeks), Canisteo (Purdy Creek), Corning, Binghamton (Pierce Creek) and other locations. Signage is being posted upstream and downstream of each site on USACE property.

“We are currently evaluating existing safety measures in place at dams within our area of responsibility to determine where and how we can improve our safety measures,” said Steve Brown, Baltimore District, Flood Risk Management Branch chief. “Placing additional safety signage at our sites, specifically along potential low-head or run-of-the-river dams, prohibiting swimming and wading, is a priority.”

When filled with water from rainfall, these dams don’t appear to be dangerous on the surface; however, water going over the dam creates a strong current underneath that is not visible and can trap and drown people, even if life jackets are worn.

“Safety is our number one priority in everything we do, and with warmer weather getting people out, we want to be sure people know about the serious dangers associated with these dams,” said Brown. “Stay out of these areas, and only swim at official recreation sites. Also, if you see someone in trouble, do not enter the water. Call 911, and use a remote assistive device, such as a rope, to try and pull them back to safety.”

There are several flood risk management projects federally constructed from the 1940s – 1970s, including channels, levees, floodwalls, check dams, drainage structures and other flood risk management features along the southern tier of New York. Portions of the project are maintained by USACE and other portions are maintained by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Cumulative flood damages prevented through 2020 from these projects are estimated at $2.73 billion.

April is officially Low-Head Dams Public Safety Awareness Month, as proclaimed by the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Environmental & Water Resources Institute.


Sarah Lazo

Release no. 21-020