High Priority: NY Dam Safety

Apr 12, 2013

NYC DEP workers outside the Gilboa Dam on March 2, 2013
Credit Dave Lucas / WAMC

A pair of high-ranking officials are taking steps to ensure safety of New York's Dams -  Since twin storms Irene and Lee hit in 2011, there's been increased awareness and concern about the safety of New York's 2-thousand-odd dams ... there are about 400 Class C "high-hazard" dams - the state Office of Emergency management says 26 of them are in Orange County, 14 in Sullivan and 9 in Ulster. This class of dam would cause serious damage and would threaten people's lives upon failure.

Democratic U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer raises the bar on the urgency of dam safety:  he says that in the Capital Region, there are 193 high or significant hazard dams, and 148 of those have no emergency plans. Schumer adds that more than 1,000 dams in New York are rated as posing a high or significant hazard, while almost three quarters of them have no proper emergency plans in place.

According to the Times Union, the average upstate dam is 60 years old and the high-hazard ones average 80 years of age.  Cold Spring democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney is looking to steer millions in federal funds with companion legislation, the Dam Safety Act of 2013,  which would pay out $32 million over five years to go toward maintaining dam infrastructure.

John Kosa is deputy commissioner of the Albany Water Board. He says that the action plans have been prepared and are in place in the event of any local breaches.

The American Society of Civil Engineers, rates New York seventh in the nation for money budgeted toward dam maintenance at $1,386,500 and seventh in the nation for most high-hazard dams.