Governor proposes funding to repair Pennsylvania dams

Gov. Ed Rendell has proposed a multi-year plan to spend $12 million in the first year to repair seven state-owned high-hazard dams and another $15 million for repairs and safety-related work at high-hazard dams owned by local governments.

Rendell urged the General Assembly Feb. 5 to approve his Rebuilding Pennsylvania proposal, which also includes provisions for repairing structurally deficient bridges, and aging aviation and rail freight facilities.

�Rebuilding Pennsylvania will finally address every state-owned, unsafe, high-hazard dam, in an effort to keep surrounding homes and communities safe,� Rendell said.

The plan would direct $200 million to bridge repairs and include $13 million for flood control projects. In addition to the $12 million to repair state-owned dams, the plan includes $15 million in new general fund investments in local dam repairs, flood plain mapping, and infrastructure.

�Dams can protect downstream communities and the environment, and they can provide recreational opportunities for anglers and boaters in addition to a reliable supply of water,� Rendell said. �This initiative will allow us to preserve or breach unsafe structures to eliminate the potential for a catastrophe.�

The governor said the department’s Dam Safety Program classified 24 state-owned high-hazard dams as unsafe. He said repair work to some of the dams is in the design or construction phase, or already eligible for funding through the state’s capital budget.

The $12 million would be used for seven of the 24 dams, in the first year of the multi-year program, a Department of Environmental Protection spokesman said. Estimates to repair the other 17 dams in the group total $37 million.

The $15 million in new general fund investments would support a state matching loan-grant program that could help cover 30 percent of the cost of repairing the 21 unsafe high-hazard dams owned by county or local governments. The Department of Environmental Protection, which regulates about 3,200 dams, would work with state agencies and municipalities that own the unsafe dams.

In April 2004, Rendell marked the 115th anniversary of the Johnstown flood that killed more than 2,200 people by launching Pennsylvania’s Dam Safety Initiative. At that time, he directed DEP to issue violation notices to owners of 276 high-hazard dams lacking proper emergency action plans. Two years later, Rendell directed DEP to issue notices to owners of 46 high-hazard dams still operating without an EAP. (HNN 9/11/06)

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