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Dam Safety & Security

FERC orders dam owners to submit safety program reports

In a significant expansion of its Owners Dam Safety Program, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is ordering owners of high- and significant-hazard dams to submit ODSP reports for their structures.

Spurred by the 2005 failure of the upper dam of the 408-MW Taum Sauk Pumped-Storage project in Missouri, FERC developed a self-assessment tool so dam owners could review the effectiveness of their dam safety programs. Previously, FERC required ODSP filings on a case-by-case basis.

In a new initiative, FERC sent letters in May 2012 announcing that all owners of high- and significant-hazard dams under FERC jurisdiction must submit within 30 days a plan and schedule to file individual ODSPs. The letter, from Director William Allerton of FERC's division of Dam Safety and Inspections, said dam owners should plan to submit their actual ODSP documents within six months.

"A dam safety program that is well-documented and is kept current through annual reviews sends a message to all affected parties both within and outside your organization that dam safety is important," Allerton wrote. "Recognizing that each organization is unique, your ODSP should be specifically tailored to your particular situation considering your portfolio of dams, dam types, and the associated life safety and financial risks."

FERC said basic principles of a good dam safety program include:

- Acknowledgment of dam safety responsibilities;

- Communication;

- Clear designation of responsibility;

- Allocation of resources to dam safety; and

- Learning organizational techniques.

The letter contained an outline of items to be included in each ODSP filing.

Work begins on new Folsom Dam spillway

Construction has begun on a new flood control spillway at California's Folsom Dam, with crews pouring concrete for the site's new control structure in June.

Construction has started on a new control structure to improve safety at California's Folsom Dam.
Construction has started on a new control structure to improve safety at California's Folsom Dam.

The 146-foot-high structure, which is being built adjacent to the existing Folsom Dam, will include six steel gates positioned 50 feet lower than the spillway gates on the current dam. This will allow for an earlier release of floodwaters, says owner the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which will almost double Folsom Dam's flood safety rating when the work is completed in 2017. Need for the new structure was identified in the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Safety of Dams program and is being executed alongside rehabilitation of the 198.72-MW Folsom power plant.

The $1 billion project is a joint collaboration between the Corps, Reclamation, state of California and Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency.

Iowa legislative committee approves Delhi Dam repair funding

Iowa's legislature has reached a tentative deal that would help fund a $12 million reconstruction of the state's Delhi Dam. The dam, located on Lake Delhi along the Maquoketa River, collapsed in July 2010, causing extensive property damage and nearly draining the reservoir.

The proposal says the state will spend $2.5 million on Delhi Dam during the next two fiscal years, although it must still pass official House and Senate votes before being submitted to Gov. Terry Branstad.

In addition to the state's $5 million, Lake Delhi residents have approved raising their taxes to fund a $6 million bond. Delaware County supervisors have also endorsed up to $3 million in bonds, and private fundraising has added $1.7 million. If state funds pass, work is slated to start in early 2013, with the lake being restored later that year. The Federal Emergency Management Agency denied an appeal for federal funding of the project in March 2011, saying the group that owns the dam and another created to levy taxes to maintain the dam didn't meet eligibility criteria. The Delhi Dam facility has not produced power in about four decades, but it is proposed to be the site of a 1.5-MW powerhouse.

New legislation aims to increase dam safety in Massachusetts

A new bill would help Massachusetts dam owners and operators defray some safety-related costs, if proposed legislation is approved by the state's House of Representatives.

Sponsored by state Senator Marc R. Pacheco, the bill would provide low-interest loans to help repair or remove unsafe dams.

According to information provided by the state's Office of Dam Safety, nearly two-thirds of dams in Massachusetts qualify as "high hazard."

The bill would also require all dams to be inventoried annually by the state's Department of Conservation and Recreation, while mandating all high-hazard dams have an emergency action plan. Fines for non-compliance with dam safety regulations would also be raised from $500 to $5,000 per day.

Corps pushing forward on stability work at Bluestone Dam

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning to install 278 high-capacity multi-strand rock anchors at Bluestone Dam on the New River in West Virginia.

The Corps' Dam Safety Assurance Program found potential for initiation of failure of Bluestone Dam at a water elevation below the top of the dam. A downstream hazard assessment indicates there is sufficient justification to modify the project to accommodate 100% of probable maximum flood levels.

The dam, which contains 55 monoliths, began operation in 1948. Work on the Bluestone Dam stability project began in 1998 and is being accomplished in five phases. The Corps will soon be reviewing bids for the installation of high-strength anchors, primarily over the stilling basin.

The work is valued at $25 million to $100 million. Bluestone Dam's primary purposes are flood control and recreation.

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