Army Corps of Engineers worried about the impacts of fracking on dams

In late July the Dallas Morning News reported that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has declared a 3,000-foot buffer around its dams and water-control structures in most of Texas and several other states, within which it will not allow new wells, drilling pads or pipelines.

The News also reported that the Corps has a national team studying potential risks to dam safety from minerals extraction, including the potential risk that fracking could cause shifts along natural faults and weaken dam foundations, whether extracting large volumes of gas beneath or near a dam might make rock and soil subside, and whether injecting fracking waste into underground disposal wells can trigger earthquakes.

The News quotes two dam safety experts.  I am pasting the quotes below because the article is only available with subscription:

Bruce Tschantz, professor emeritus of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Tennessee and first chief of dam safety at the Federal Emergency Management Agency: “Until the science involving any short- and long-term relationship between hydraulic fracturing and foundation destabilization, dam safety and reservoir stability is better understood, it is my general opinion as a hydraulic engineer that we should approach hydrofracturing in the vicinity of these structures very cautiously."

Stephen Wright, professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at the University of Texas: “It seems reasonable that the corps is researching this issue. I am pleased that the corps takes the position of placing public safety of paramount importance. I hope everyone would be as conscientious.” 

About the Authors

Amy Mall

Senior Policy Analyst, Land & Wildlife program

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