U.S. governor calls for Missouri to regulate 5,000 dams

Gov. Matt Blunt is calling on the Missouri Legislature to extend state dam regulation to encompass 5,000 structures, including those now regulated by the U.S. government, as well as conservation, irrigation, and agricultural dams.

Currently, the state of Missouri regulates about 600 dams. Blunt’s proposals would extend state regulation to five exempt Federal Power Act dams, 54 exempt agricultural dams, and thousands of dams between 25 and 35 feet tall. They would include 1,500 high-hazard, 1,300 significant-hazard, and 2,200 low-hazard dams.

Action spurred by dam breach at 408-MW Taum Sauk

Blunt said Feb. 13 he supports recommendations in a Missouri Department of Natural Resources study he ordered following the Dec. 14 breach of a reservoir at AmerenUE’s 408-MW Taum Sauk pumped-storage project (No. 2277). While the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission oversees Taum Sauk, the governor’s office noted the incident raised questions about state regulation of dams.

Blunt proposed changing the definition of “dam” to include both height and maximum storage guidelines. He wants licensed professional engineers to inspect all high-hazard and significant-hazard dams of 25 feet or more, and those impounding 50 acre-feet or more, at least every five years. Owners of low-hazard dams would be required to inspect their own dams and report at least every five years. Blunt also recommended changing hazard classifications to focus on risk to the public as a main factor in the level of oversight.

DNR said there have been no significant changes to the Missouri Dam and Reservoir Safety Law of 1979 since it was enacted. A task force met in 1999 to review the law, but never made recommendations. However, there was support at that time for extending state regulation to dams of 25 feet and taller, from the current minimum of 35 feet, and for including storage volume in the definition of a dam.

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