Virginia, Oregon looking to improve dam safety at state level

Legislators in Virginia and Oregon announced measures last week intended to help improve dam safety within their respective states.

In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a $1.15 million state grant program to be used to “enhance public safety, reduce the risk of dam failures, and prevent property damage from flooding.”

The funding will be distributed to 72 dam safety and floodplain management projects that were selected following approval by the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board. Recipients include public and private dam owners, who will get 50/50 matching grants, and local government agencies.

The state said the recipients were selected after being evaluated in more than a dozen categories, including dam design, analysis, and operator emergency preparedness, education and public outreach.

“More than half of the dams receiving funding are classified as high-hazard, meaning they pose the greatest risk to life and property upon failure and are a priority for the commonwealth,” Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) director Clyde Cristman said.

Funds will be used not only for rehabilitation, but also for dam hazard classification analysis, the development of emergency action plans and spillway capacity studies.

The money comes from the Virginia Dam Safety, Flood Prevention and Protection Assistance Fund, which is managed by the Virginia Resources Authority on behalf of DCR.

A full list of grant recipients can be downloaded from DCR’s website here.

Meanwhile in Oregon, the state’s House and Senate have approved a bill that require the owners or operators of high-hazard dams to develop emergency action plans for their structures.

Per the legislation — officially House Bill 3427 — high-hazard structures would also be subject to annual inspection by Oregon’s Water Resources Department, assuming they were not already regulated by a federal dam safety program.

For more dam safety news, visit here.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for

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