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With Critical Water Resource Bill Headed to Senate Floor -- Schumer Reveals That Over 800 Dams in New York Don't Have Emergency Action Plans in Place to Address Risks to Life, Infrastructure, Homes & Businesses If a Dam Breaks or Major Flooding Occurs

With Spring Thaw Looming, Schumer Calls on Senate to Pass "Dam Safety Program" Reauthorization to Fund Statewide Dam Inspections, Upgrade Emergency Preparedness to Prevent Dam Failures & Improve Recovery Plans After Incident Occurs

Dams Are Vital to Flood Protection, Drinking Water, Navigation, Hydropower & More– Western NY Has 62 Hazardous Dams, Capital Region 193 Dams, Hudson Valley 380 Dams, Southern Tier 157 Dams, Rochester-FL has 64 Dams, Central NY 102 Dams, North Country 180 Dams


U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today revealed that there are over 1,100 dams considered “high” and “significant” hazards in Upstate New York, and more than three-quarters do not have an emergency action plan (EAP) to protect local homes, businesses and human life should dam breakage and subsequent flooding occur. Dams are a vital part of our nation’s aging infrastructure and provide enormous benefits to Upstate New Yorkers, including flood protection, drinking water, renewable hydroelectric power, navigation, irrigation, and recreation. Yet many of these hazardous dams are nearly a century old, and with the spring thaw fast-approaching, the risk to the surrounding community is too great to ignore.


Schumer called on his Senate colleagues to pass the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (WRDA) which is set for a potential vote in the next two weeks, and will contain important proposals to improve navigation, coastal management and infrastructure financing. As it relates to Upstate New York, one of the most important aims of WRDA is to boost federal funding for dam inspections and maintenance and for stronger safety requirements through the reauthorization of the expired National Dam Safety Program (NDSP). Recent state regulations now require hazardous dams to develop EAPs in conjunction with state and local dam safety experts, and this plan will provide critical funding for those efforts. According to the National Inventory of Dams (NID), the average dam in New York State is 60 years old, and high hazard dams are an average 84 years old. Because of their age and the potential for disaster, it is crucial that these high and significant hazard dams receive proper monitoring and maintenance from regulatory authorities, and this legislation recognizes that the federal government plays a vital role in supporting the maintenance and inspection of dams by state and local governments across the U.S.


“As our weather patterns become more extreme and our nation’s dams and other infrastructure continue to age, it’s the federal government’s job to invest in upgrades to our dams to make these structures safer and more reliable,” said Schumer. “Upstate New York has hundreds of hazardous dams, many without emergency action plans in place to protect the surrounding community, and we cannot needlessly put New Yorkers’ property or even lives at risk should a maintenance glitch or flood occur. Luckily, the WRDA bill would reauthorize the National Dam Safety Program, which would increase the flow of federal funds to Upstate New York’s most at-risk dams for inspection and maintenance and require that these sites have emergency action plans in place: I will shore up the support in the Senate to make this law.”


According to NID, New York State has approximately 1,968 dams. Of these, there are about 403 “high hazard” dams in Upstate New York – dams that would cause significant loss of life and/or significant damage to surrounding properties if they failed – and 738 “significant hazard” dams - those where failure or poor operation results in no probable loss of human life, but can cause economic loss, environment damage, disruption of lifeline facilities, or impact other concerns. What’s more, 802 dams in those two categories do not have Emergency Action Plans in place.


An Emergency Action Plan (EAP) for a dam is an official document that establishes procedures to minimize loss of life and property damage in the event of a dam failure.  An EAP usually contains a description of necessary preventive maintenance for that structure, maps that indicate areas susceptible to flooding, and a list of potential emergency conditions - like extreme weather - that could trigger a dam failure. An EAP also details actions to be taken if a dam failure does occur, by providing suggested notification procedures for first responders and the general public, the proper protocol to mitigate damage to property, as well as resources and supplies available for those impacted.


Given the incredibly high number of aging dams in Upstate New York, and a large percentage of those without Emergency Action Plans, Schumer is pushing to help mitigate, respond to, and recover from dam incidents to help protect homes, businesses, and even human life. The Water Resources Development Act will reauthorize the National Dam Safety Program, which is led by FEMA, and is a partnership of the states, federal agencies, and other stakeholders to encourage individual and community responsibility for dam safety. This provides federal funding for grant assistance to the state, dam safety research, and dam safety training for safety staff and inspectors. It will provide New York State with federal grants to hire engineering staff or engineering consultants to complete inspections and develop Emergency Action Plans. The legislation would provide a total of $9.2 million per year split among the states, based on the relative number of dams per state, to make improvements in programs identified in the National Dam Safety Program Act. It will also include $1 million per year for a nationwide public awareness and outreach program; $1.45 million per year in research funds to identify more effective techniques to assess, construct, and monitor dams; $750,000 per year in training assistance to state engineers; and $500,000 per year for the National Inventory of Dams.


While New York State has made progress in recent years to address the high hazard potential of many dams, the state needs additional assistance from the federal government. During Tropical Storms Irene and Lee, 31 dams in New York State were damaged. Of these, four “low hazard” and “intermediate hazard” dams failed, resulting in significant damage in Greene County. 


Schumer revealed the regional data of hazardous dams:


·         The Capital Region has 193 high and significant hazard dams, 148 of which lack an Emergency Action Plan.


·         Central New York has 102 high and significant hazard dams, 63 of which lack an Emergency Action Plan.


·         The Rochester-Finger Lakes region has 64 high and significant hazard dams, 51 of which that lack an Emergency Action Plan.


·         The Southern Tier has 157 high and significant hazard dams, 120 of which lack an Emergency Action Plan.


·         Western New York has 62 high and significant hazard dams, 53 of which lack an Emergency Action Plan.


·         The Hudson Valley has 380 high and significant hazard dams, 281 of which lack an Emergency Action Plan.


·         The North Country has 180 high and significant hazard dams, 86 of which lack an Emergency Action Plan.



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