Dam Safety

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Common Problems at Dams - Trees

Probable Causes and Possible Consequences

Recommended Actions

  • Trees and other brush obscure visual inspection of the dam and harbor rodents.
  • Large tree roots can create seepage paths through earthen dams.
  • Large trees can blow over during a storm and damage the dam, which may cause a breach.
  • Do not allow trees to grow on the dam. Remove trees and other brush annually. Treat the stumps of deciduous trees with herbicide to prevent regrowth.
  • Remove large trees and their roots and backfill holes with well compacted soil. Before removing the roots, the reservoir should be lowered to reduce the risk of serious seepage problems developing during removal.
  • If possible, remove trees at the toe of the dam to provide a15-foot buffer around the dam.


trees on both sides of a sidewalk path

Trees should not be planted or allowed to grow on dams. Tree root systems create pathways for water and can damage dams if they are uprooted.

Seepage through dam damaged by tree roots

Seepage through dam damaged by tree roots. Trees should not be allowed to grow on dams. (Photo source: ASDSO)

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