ABSTRACT: The probable maximum flood (PMF) currently serves as the design standard for many U.S. dams. Floods used for design have increased and currently thousands of dams in the U.S. would be overtopped and possibly fail using the latest calculated PMF at each dam site. Some researchers have suggested that modifying dams to accommodate the PMF could be wasteful. Objections to using the PMF for dam modification include: (1) larger spillway capacity may increase annual downstream flood losses, (2) benefit-cost ratios may be low, (3) construction accidents associated with dam modification may cause fatalities, and (4) the dollar amount spent to save lives by making dams safer is often very high. Based on these objections, a procedure is presented for evaluating the effectiveness of a proposed dam modification. A change in spillway design policy is recommended. Accepting the status quo at a dam that cannot accommodate the PMF may be the best course of action.