Dam Safety in the States

States Advocacy

ASDSO’s mission is to advance and improve the safety of dams by supporting the dam safety community and state dam safety programs, raising awareness of dam safety issues, facilitating cooperation, providing a forum for the exchange of information, representing dam safety interests before governments, providing outreach programs, and creating a unified community of dam safety advocates. Goal #1 of the mission is to "Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of state dam safety programs."

ASDSO works with the state programs and with local stakeholders in developing state-by-state advocacy coalitions. If you would like to start advocating for strong dam safety programs in your state contact Mark Ogden, 859.333.3650.

2014 Advocacy Efforts

January 2014 - Virginia Dam Safety Legislation - (January 3th update - ASDSO worked with our members and partners in Virginia to educate state legislators on the two bills described below.  A substutute version of Senate Bill 582  that addresses the concerns ASDSO had with both the original SB582 and HB1006 has passed the Virginia Senate.  Substitute SB582 calls for the PMP study required in HB1006 and limits the exemption during the study period to dams with needed enlargement to the emergency spillway.  There is also a substitute version of House Bill 1006 that limits the exemption during the study period to dams with needed enlargement to the emergency spillway and it has been reported out of committee.)

On January 16th the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) made ASDSO aware of several bills before the Virginia General Assembly concerning dam safety regulation and asked that information about the bills be provided to ASDSO Virginia members.  ASDSO sent an alert to Virginia members on January 17th with the information provided by the DCR encouraging them to take whatever action they felt appropriate.  Read the DCR information here.

Following reserach on the bills, ASDSO took positions to oppose two of the bills, Senate Bill 582 (SB582) and House Bill 1006 (HB1006), and sent a follow-up alert to the Virginia membership on January 20th asking them to write their legislators and the members of the assigned committees urging them to oppose the bills.

  • SB582 is the most egregious of the bills.  It effectively eliminates public safety regulation for all documented deficient dams in Virginia; it suspends regulation until the DCR completes a study and until the General Assembly reviews and comments on the study and addresses funding issues for dam owners to comply with the regulations.  In today’s political and fiscal reality, addressing funding issues will not likely happen and deficient dams may go uninspected and unrepaired until they fail.  Also, the DCR recently completed an analysis very similar to what is called for in SB582 and worked with the 2010 and 2011 Virginia General Assemblies to develop legislation that allows for the reduction of spillway capacity based on downstream risk.  In addition, they implemented new regulations in 2012 that reduced the regulatory burden on many dam owners without compromising public safety.  ASDSO sent letters to all members of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation & Natural Resources Committee asking them to oppose this bill.
  • HB1006 requires a PMP study for Virginia and ASDSO has no position on this aspect, but it further allows all deficient dams to go unrepaired until the study has been completed.  This provision seems reasonable for dams with insufficient spillway capacity but not for dams with structural or other issues.  Upgrades to dams for structural deficiencies or for emergency preparedness measures could be unnecessarily delayed while the DCR conducts the PMP analysis. ASDSO sent letters to members of the House Agriculture, Chesapeake & Natural Resources Committee asking them to amend the bill, suggesting the wording “no upgrade of the emergency spillway capacity is required until the storm-based analysis … has been completed” to replace “no upgrades until the storm based analysis … has been completed.” If the amendment could not be accomplished, we urged them to oppose the bill. 

You can read the alerts and letters here.

2013 Advocacy Efforts

Alabama - ASDSO President Tom Woosley and ASCE Alabama Section members met with Alabama legislators to discuss the need for a dam safety program in Alabama.  The meeting came about when local officials from an Alabama village contacted President Woosley with concerns about the condition of a local dam.  The legislators expressed their interest in sponsoring legislation in the 2014 legislative session.

ASDSO also conducted a series of conference calls in 2013 with ASCE Alabama Section & ASCE Government Relations representatives to discuss efforts toward dam safety legislation.

2012 Advocacy Efforts

August 2012 - ASDSO meets with ASCE Alabama Section to discuss dam safety regulation - Tom Woosley, ASDSO Secretary and Georgia State Representative, Mark Ogden, ASDSO Project Manager, and Aaron Costello, ASCE Director of State and Local Government Relations had an opportunity in August to speak on dam safety regulation at the ASCE Alabama Section and APWA Alabama Chapter Joint Summer Conference. The presentation continued ASDSO and ASCE efforts to work toward a state dam safety program in Alabama; it focused on the need for dam safety regulation and discussed how ASDSO and ASCE can work with the Alabama ASCE and APWA groups to help establish a program. An estimated 60 to 70 conference attendees attended the one-hour presentation and many were engaged in relating issues with dams and expressing a desire to help with the effort. ASDSO and ASCE are continuing the push toward dam safety awareness and legislation in the state.

July 2012 - Virginia Governor's Task Force Again Targets Dam Safety Regulations - ASDSO works with Virginia partners to defend the current state dam safety standards. The Virginia Governor’s Task Force for Local Government Mandate Review again considered reverting from the 2008 Virginia Dam Safety regulations to pre-2008 standards. ASDSO responded by sending a letter to the Task Force and also issuing a legislative alert to our Virginia members asking them to send a letter in opposition to this proposal and to attend a Task Force public meeting to be held on July 30th. Click here to see the ASDSO letter and legislative alert; also see the December 2011 item below for for a link to the Task Force recommendations and ASDSO's response at that time on this same proposal. The letter from ASDSO highlighted that the Virginia Dam Safety Program has made great strides in recent years to increase public safety, but also to reduce the regulatory burden on many dam owners without compromising public safety and that because of the recent legislative and regulatory changes, reverting to the pre-2008 regulations would actually increase the regulatory burden on many dam owners while decreasing the safety of citizens and property downstream.

Those attending the July 30th meeting reported that the Task Force elected to drop this proposal and keep the 2008 regulations. ASDSO wishes to thank our partners and all those that helped to support dam safety in Virginia.

May 2012 - ASDSO and ASCE support funding for dam safety and hazardous low-head dam removal in Iowa. ASDSO & ASCE responded to reports that the Iowa Legislature's Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal would not include funding for hazardous low-head dam removal (read the Des Moines Register article) by sending a letter to Governor Branstad, legislative leaders and budget conferees in support of the dam removal fund and the Iowa Dam Safety program. The Low-Head Dam Public Hazard Program provides funding to local communities for the removal of low-head dams on Iowa’s rivers including dams that have no value and are in poor condition and need to be removed to protect downstream lives and property. With only 2.5 staff, the Iowa program ranks extremely low based upon the number of dams regulated per staff member. The Dam Safety and Low-Head Dam Public Hazard Programs work together in protecting Iowa’s citizens and their property. The letter urged Iowa policy makers to provide the necessary funding for these public safety programs (read a sample letter).

Update - The legislative conference committee voted to include $1 million for the Low-Head Dam Public Hazard Program and it was approved by the full Legislature, however there is concern about a line-item veto by Governor Branstad.

February 2012 - ASDSO responds to Kentucky editorial and advocates for stronger EAP regulation. In response to a February 26 editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader (In case of dam break: No plan), ASDSO Executive Director Lori Spragens submitted an op-ed piece reiterating the need for EAPs on the state's high-hazard dams and noting that, according to the latest available data, only 8 of 178 high-hazard potential state-regulated dams have EAPs on file with state regulators. ASDSO also sent letters to members of the Kentucky Legislature advocating for state EAP authority. ASDSO will work with partners and stakeholders in Kentucky to advocate for stronger statutory authority.

January 2012 - ASDSO meets with Alabama ASCE Chapter to discuss dam safety regulation - ASDSO Secretary and Georgia State Representative Tom Woosley represented ASDSO at a January ASCE meeting in Birmingham, AL. The local ASCE chapter invited ASDSO to speak about dam safety and the possibility of a dam safety program in Alabama (Alabama is the only state without a state dam safety program). Mr. Woosley gave a presentation on dam safety regulation and discussed how ASDSO can possibly work with them to help establish a program. Mr. Woosley reported that the meeting went very well and in general the group of about 25 to 30 ASCE members expressed a desire for Alabama to have a dam safety program. The big obstacle in Alabama appears to be resistance in the agricultural community. ASDSO will continue to work with ASCE and other partners to bring about the support necessary to start a program.

2011 Advocacy Efforts

December 2011 - Virginia Governor's Task Force Targets Dam Safety Regulations - ASDSO is working with Virginia partners to defend the current state dam safety standards. Governor McDonnell's Task Force for Local Government Mandate Review has included the 2008 dam safety regulations among a list of mandates for potential repeal. The mission of the task force is to review state mandates imposed on localities and to recommend temporary suspension or permanent repeal of such mandates as appropriate, and based on input from local government officials, the task force has recommended that dam safety regulation revert to pre-2008 standards. The 2008 regulations improved public safety by increasing safety standards for dam design, operation and emergency response. Reverting to the previous regulations will allow hundreds of substandard dams in Virginia, including many high hazard potential dams with the potential for loss of life if the dam fails to continue to present an unacceptable risk to the citizens of the Commonwealth. ASDSO has sent a letter to the task force urging them to reject this proposed weakening of dam safety regulations. Click here for a partial listing of the task force recommendations and the ASDSO letter. ASDSO will continue to work with partners such as ASCE and the Virginia ACEC to educate the task force and Virginia policy-makers on the importance of dam safety standards.

October 2011 - Idaho Proposal for Owner-Responsible Inspections - The Idaho Department of Water Resources is considering a proposal to change to an owner-responsible inspection model. ASDSO provided information to the Idaho Dam Safety Program concerning owner-responsible dam safety inspections including model program language and examples/best practices from other states. Click here for an article from the Capital Press in Idaho concerning the possible shift in inspections responsibility.

May 31, 2011 - Texas Dam Safety Legislation - ASDSO works with Texas partners to limit attempts to weaken dam safety regulations in the state. In April 2011, ASDSO learned of an amendment to a bill that would eliminate over 94% of dams under state regulatory jurisdiction by exempting dams with less than 1000 acre-feet of storage. The amendment was approved by the Texas House of Representatives on April 19th as part of a reauthorization bill for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Through the efforts of ASDSO, our members and many partners, the amendment was not included in the Senate reauthorization companion bill and was greatly changed in the conference committee report for the two bills. The final bill, adopted by the Legislature, includes an exemption for significant and low hazard dams storing less than a maximum of 500 acre-feet in counties with population less than 215,000, excluding dams within municipal corporate limits. Read alerts/letters…

April 7, 2011 - Virginia Dam Safety Legislation - ASDSO works with Virginia partners to defeat an amendment to the the budget bill that would have exempted up to 97% of dams under state regulatory jurisdiction. This action ended a series of efforts by ASDSO on legislation concerning dam safety in Virginia during the 2011 legislative session. You can see the summary and read more about the legislative alerts and letters at the following link. Read summary, alerts/letters…

Links to individual state dam safety laws and regulations can be found on the "Dam Safety in the States" page.

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