2019 – Rationale Behind the US Army Corps of Engineers Tolerable Risk Guidelines

Nathan J. Snorteland, M.S., P.E.

Dams and levees within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) inventory were constructed for a variety of purposes including flood control, navigation, hydropower, recreation, and fish and wildlife conservation. USACE transitioned to using life safety risk as a key input to all dam and levee safety decisions in 2006. This was implemented for many reasons, paramount among them is forming a consistent basis to evaluate the safety of dams and levees and prioritize the implementation of risk reduction measures in a consistent manner across the agency to best utilize available resources. This requires knowledge of what constitutes unacceptable risks that would require risk reduction actions. The Tolerable Risk Guidelines (TRG) were developed for this purpose, and to form a common basis for dam and levee safety evaluations and decisions. Protection of life is paramount, and there are four TRG related to (1) understanding the risks surrounding dams and levees, (2) building risk awareness, (3) fulfilling daily responsibilities, and (4) continually considering actions to reduce risks. The USACE policies have evolved over time, but the fundamental principles that underpin the TRG have been fairly consistent for the past 10 years. The evolution of the TRG have come as a result of the experiences using these principles to support more than 2,500 safety decisions. This paper describes the rationale behind the selection of the TRG.

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