Dam safety leaders discuss need for State Dam Safety Program in Alabama

Lexington, Ky. — Elected officials from Alabama and experts from the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) discussed the status of House Bill 610, which aimed to establish a state dam safety program. Notably, Alabama is the only state in the country without such a program. The bill, which was referred to the House of Representatives Committee on Commerce and Small Business, was sponsored by Republican State Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin along with co-sponsors Republican State Rep. Mike Hill and Republican State Rep. Kurt Wallace.

“Without a dam safety program in Alabama, we don’t have important information about dams in our state, including an accurate picture of how many we have or their condition,” said State Rep. McClurkin. “It is unacceptable for Alabama to continue to be the only state in the country without the resources to support this critical infrastructure and to protect our residents.”

Without a state dam safety program in place, the condition of most dams in Alabama is unknown. Further, most dams in the state do not have an emergency action plan (EAP) and there is a lack of information for citizens and emergency management officials to plan for an emergency, which unnecessarily puts the people of Alabama at risk. House Bill 610 would have established statewide procedures for the construction, alteration, repair, operation, abandonment and removal of dams.

“Dams are integral to our nation’s infrastructure and provide many important benefits,” said Lori Spragens, executive director of ASDSO. “We all have a role to play in creating a future where all dams are safe and Alabama needs a dam safety program in order to monitor and regulate the state’s dams. A commitment by all states to improving dam safety today will save lives and property tomorrow.”

State governments regulate the majority of dams in the United States. With these programs in place, experts know the number and condition of most dams, and dam owners and local emergency management officials are better prepared for emergency situations. However, thousands of dams across the country are considered deficient and the number of dams being rehabilitated lags behind the increasing number of deficient dams. A deficient dam is one with structural or hydraulic deficiencies that may leave it susceptible to failure. From 1998 to 2008, the recorded number of deficient dams rose from 1,818 to 4,308, an increase of 137 percent.

For more information on dams and dam safety, visit www.damsafety.org.


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