Are you responsible for a dam?

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The Stark Soil and Water Conservation District was recently asked to help the ODNR Division of Soil and Water Resources host several dam safety workshops.

While researching information related to Ohio’s dams, I came across some eye-opening information

Catastrophe

Did you know that the IVEX Dam (Chagrin River, northeastern Ohio) failed catastrophically on Aug. 13, 1994, releasing about 10 million gallons of impounded water and sediment, dewatering the reservoir in approximately two or three minutes?

Failure of the dam can be attributed to an inadequate spillway design, lack of an emergency spillway, 86 percent loss of pool capacity due to 152 years of sedimentation, and poor dam maintenance.

Similar dam failures will become an increasing problem, due to the aging of the nation’s 75,591 larger dams and reservoirs, of which 95 percent are privately owned and operated. Ohio, alone, has approximately 1,550 jurisdictional dams.

Who’s responsible?

According to Ohio Laws and Rules, the owner of a dam is responsible for ensuring that the dam is maintained and operated in such a way that it does not constitute a hazard to life, health, or property. The owner of the structure is responsible for implementing precautionary measures, such as periodic inspection, maintenance, monitoring, and repairs.

Despite efforts to keep dams and levees in good condition, they can develop problems that can lead to failure. Therefore, an Emergency Action Plan, required for all Class I, II and III dams and levees, should be created and implemented.

Ready for anything

Because failure of a dam can take only hours or minutes, it is imperative to have a detailed plan of action ready for use.

An emergency action plan will give dam owners and local officials the tools necessary to warn and evacuate residents downstream. More and more emphasis is being placed on emergency action plans as the public becomes more aware of the importance of dam safety.

Get help

The ODNR-DSWR Dam Safety Engineering Program is happy to help dam owners who have questions about the condition or the safe operation of their dam. During 2010, the Dam Safety Program implemented a new FEMA-grant funded project for emergency preparedness and public outreach that targeted five counties.

The good news is that the current grant project will target 12 additional counties throughout the state, If you live in one of the following counties, and own a Class I, II or III dam, you will be receiving an invitation to attend a meeting for dam owners: Brown, Carroll, Clermont, Columbiana, Lorain, Miami, Morgan, Shelby, Stark, Tuscarawas, Van Wert, and Williams.

Dam owners attending the meetings will come away with increased knowledge of their dam and how to develop an emergency plan, and how to work with local officials to keep it up to date. They’ll also learn how to receive a 10 percent discount toward their dam’s annual fee by developing and following an approved Emergency Action Plan for their dam.

Collaboration

Many local Soil and Water Conservation Districts will now be assisting with the implementation of public outreach related to Ohio’s dams.

The SWCD staff, local EMA directors, and staff from the ODNR-DSWR, will work together to plan the local meetings.

For more information, visit www.dnr.state.oh.us/tabid/3329/Default.aspx or call your local Soil and Water Conservation District.

Ohio dam facts

— Tallest dam: Cardinal Fly Ash No. 1 dam in Jefferson County at 241 feet high.

— Longest dam: Buckeye Lake dam in Licking and Fairfield counties at 4.1 miles.

— Oldest dam: Beaver Lake dam in Licking County (built in 1800).

— County with the most jurisdictional dams: Medina County with 66 Class I, II and III dams.

About the Author

Carolyn Gabric is District Administrator for the Stark SWCD, where she has been employed for 21 years. More Stories by Carolyn Gabric

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