WASHINGTON, D.C. – With nearly 1,000 dams considered “high” or “significant” hazards in Ohio—many without an emergency action plan (EAP) to protect local homes and businesses should dam breakage or flooding occur—U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) outlined how the critical Water Resources Development bill would make Ohio’s dams safer and protect Ohio communities. During a news conference call today, Brown also discussed efforts to direct funding for dredging and maintenance in Lake Erie’s harbors.
“Our state’s aging water infrastructure includes nearly 1,000 dams in need of repair,” Brown said. “If a dam breaks and communities flood, families and business owners in too many communities would be ill-prepared for an emergency. That’s why I’m calling for passage of the Water Resources Development Act, legislation that includes critical resources for dam inspections and maintenance.
“It’s also important that we keep Lake Erie’s harbors— which contribute billions of dollars to our state’s economy—open and ready for business,” Brown continued. “I will continue fighting to preserve funding for dredging in the Great Lakes.”
This week, the Senate will vote on the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), legislation that contains important resources for dam inspections and maintenance in addition to stronger safety requirements through the reauthorization of the expired National Dam Safety Program (NDSP). The NDSP provides federal funding for grant assistance to: complete inspections and develop EAPs; implement public awareness and outreach programs; conduct research to identify more effective techniques to assess, construct, and monitor dams; and provide training assistance to state engineers.
Of the more than 900 hazardous dams in Ohio, more than 400 are designated as “high-hazard”— dams that would cause significant loss of life and/or significant damage to surrounding properties if they failed—and more than 500 are designated as “significant-hazard”—those dams where failure or poor operation results in no probable loss of human life, but can cause economic loss, environmental damage, flooding of highways or railroads, or impact other concerns. Many of these dams do not have an EAP in place. Brown released a map and county-by-county analysis of Ohio’s hazardous dams in addition to those lacking an EAP.
EAPs identify potential emergency conditions at dams and outline procedures to minimize loss of life and property damage should a dam fail. Dam owners work with state and local offials to prepare these plans that typically contain:
- Preventive maintenance instructions;
- Maps that indicate areas susceptible to flooding;
- Lists of potential emergency conditions - like extreme weather - that could trigger a dam failure;
- Suggested notification procedures for first responders and the general public;
- Protocols to mitigate damage to property; and
- Resources and supplies available for those impacted.
Brown also called on the Senate to prioritize funding for dredging and maintenance of Ohio’s harbors, including in: Ashtabula, Cleveland, Conneaut, Lorain, Sandusky, and Toledo. Currently, WRDA does not contain specific funding for the Great Lakes Navigation System (GLNS).
Last week, Brown passed an amendment to WRDA that would help prevent the invasion of Asian carp in the Ohio and Upper Mississippi River Basins. The bipartisan amendment to the Water Resources Development Act —cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Robert P. Casey (D-PA), Dick Durbin (R-IL), Rob Portman (R-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Al Franken (D-MN)—is based on the Strategic Response to Asian Carp Invasion Act, which Brown introduced earlier this year. It would enable the federal government to have a more effective partnership with state and local entities that are working to slow the spread of Asian carp. The amendment passed by a vote of 95-0.