Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Community and Regional Planning


Community and Regional Planning; Public Policy

First Advisor

Carlton Basmajian


The United States is facing a nexus of deteriorating infrastructure, single-purpose infrastructure, and a changing climate. As these forces collide and interact, infrastructure systems are pushed to the edge of their capacity and begin to collapse. The Spencer Dam failure in March of 2019 is an example of what can happen when these competing forces go unchecked. The Spencer Dam was 40 years past its life expectancy, was designed for hydroelectricity, and collapsed in the midst of a nation-wide storm event that produced large amounts of rain and ice which flooded the river. Spencer Dam is not the only dam to fail in recent years and it will not be the last. The United States infrastructure is in disarray and Spencer Dam presents a case study through which it is possible to identify several specific weakness afflicting the country’s dam infrastructure. There are over 90,000 dams in the United States and many of them have passed their predicted life expectancy of 50 years. Repairs to this system will cost billions of dollars, but waiting for the dams to collapse and repairing the resulting damage will cost much more. This paper identifies defects in the United States’ dam infrastructure, how these defects play out as seen by examining Spencer Dam, and what these defects mean for the future of the United States.


Copyright Owner

Maria Teresa Freeman



File Format


File Size

86 pages