International Dams Meeting Comes to Seattle in August

The International Commission on Large Dams is holding its 81st Annual Meeting in Seattle, Wash., in August. This event is structured for those involved with the development, operation and maintenance of critical water resource infrastructure for dams around the world.

By Elizabeth Ingram

The 81st Annual Meeting of the International Commission on Large Dams is being held in Seattle, Wash., August 12-16. The U.S. Society on Dams is hosting this year’s ICOLD event, which is being held in the U.S. for the first time since 1988.

ICOLD is a non-governmental organization that was created in 1928 and now includes 95 national member organizations on five continents. ICOLD works to ensure that dams are designed, built, operated and maintained in a way that is secure, economical and respectful of the environment and social equity, says Adama Nombre, president of ICOLD.

This year’s Annual Meeting is being organized by the U.S. Society on Dams.

The ICOLD Annual Meeting offers a variety of activities for attendees, including:

– Pre-meeting study tours that showcase dams and let participants learn about issues facing dam engineers in the U.S. and throughout the world. These tours include the North Cascade Mountains in Washington, the Elwha River restoration project in Washington and San Francisco Bay area dams in California.

– ICOLD board and technical committee meetings held Sunday, Aug. 11 through Tuesday, Aug. 13.

– City tours of downtown Seattle on Sunday, Aug. 11 and two on Monday, Aug. 12. Landmarks visited will include Pike Place Market, the Olympic Sculpture Park, and Pioneer Square.

– An exhibition from Monday, Aug. 12 to Thursday, Aug. 15. The exhibition will feature 62 U.S. and international companies and organizations (as of June 24) showcasing achievements, products and services related to the design, construction, operation and maintenance, and safety of dams.

– Multiple networking opportunities, including a welcome reception on Monday, Aug. 12; a cultural event at the Seattle Art Museum and a young professionals networking social on Wednesday, Aug. 14; and a farewell dinner on Friday, Aug. 16.

– A symposium on Wednesday, Aug. 14 with a theme of Changing Times: Infrastructure Development to Infrastructure Management. Topics to be covered during this symposium include: technical approaches for managing an aging infrastructure; advances in dam safety, security and risk management; strategies for extending the service life of dams; innovative surveillance and monitoring systems; decommissioning dams at the completion of their useful service life; and sustainable hydropower development. The symposium includes two poster sessions on Wednesday, Aug. 14 and Thursday, Aug. 15.

Speakers for this symposium include Michael F. Rogers, chairman of ICOLD 2013; Adama Nombre; Jorge Carrasco, superintendent of Seattle City Light; Sean Parnell, governor of Alaska; Michael L. Connor, commissioner of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation; Jia Jinseng, past president of ICOLD; and Eric Halpin with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

– Nine technical tours on Thursday, Aug. 15. Locations that delegates can choose to visit include Puget Sound Energy’s (PSE) Baker River hydro project on the Skagit River, PSE’s Snoqualmie Falls hydro project on the Snoqualmie River (two different times), Tacoma Power’s Cowlitz River project, Tacoma Power’s Cushman hydro project on the North Fork Skokomish River, the Hiram Chittenden Locks (two different times) and the Alden research laboratory (two different times).

– Nine four-hour-long workshops on Thursday, Aug. 15 and Friday, Aug. 16 that focus on “hot topics” that have been discussed in the U.S. and are of interest internationally. Each session will be hosted by a USSD technical committee.

Topics covered during these workshops include life extension technologies and strategies for aging dams, risk-informed dam safety management, managing spillway and reservoir capacity changes, aging of concrete dams, state-of-the-art technologies for monitoring dams and levees, closure of tailings dams, best practices in levees and embankment technology, decommissioning dams at the completion of their useful service life, and seismic analysis of embankment dams.

– Post-meeting study tours to the Mid- and Upper-Columbia River hydroelectric projects in Washington, Lower Columbia River dams and Mount St. Helens in Washington and Oregon, Northern California dams, Southeastern U.S. dams with alkali-aggregate reactions, Southern California dams, and the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon in Nevada and Arizona.

To view the complete conference program, visit

Why the U.S.? Why Seattle?

Why is the International Commission on Large Dams Annual Meeting being held in the U.S. this year, the first time since 1988? “The 81st Annual Meeting will be held in a country that was a pioneer in dam and reservoir construction for all uses, such as power generation, the irrigation of millions of acres, navigation, tourism, ecology, recreation activities, etc.” says Adama Nombre, president of ICOLD. The U.S. was one of the original founding member countries of ICOLD.

There are nearly 85,000 dams in the U.S., with more than 1,200 in Washington State, and about 87% of the state’s electricity is produced by hydroelectric facilities. In fact, about 31% of total U.S. hydropower is generated in the state.

Seattle is “located in one of the areas that has known important development in dams and reservoirs throughout its history,” Nombre says. Local utility Seattle City Light, which was created by the citizens of Seattle in 1902, says more than 92% of the electricity provided to its customers in 2010 came from hydropower.

Elizabeth Ingram is senior editor of Hydro Review.

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