Homeland Security and Emergency Services

Dam Safety Preparedness

In New York State, there are approximately 400 high-hazard (Class C) and nearly 700 moderate-hazard (Class B) dams that pose a threat to jurisdictions in the event of a dam failure. Approximately 70 of the high-hazard dams produce hydroelectric power and are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) own, operate and maintain five dams in the State, which are subject to regulations exclusive to USACE dams. The remaining high-hazard and moderate-hazard dams in New York State have not been held to the same emergency planning requirements as those of the FERC and/or USACE until 2009.

At that time, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) promulgated regulations requiring the development of Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) for all Class C and Class B dams in New York State. The emergency planning requirements mirror those of the FERC and require dam owner/operators to work with local/county government in developing and maintaining EAP(s). The scope of the newly-required EAPs is consistent with other regulatory requirements and is limited to "on-site" actions taken by the owner/operator to mitigate potential dam failure and promptly notify "off-site" officials.

It is important to note that the EAP is not the "off-site" or local government disaster plan for a dam failure. EAPs should not include response activities of local/county or State agencies. Similarly, local government planning efforts begin where the EAP responsibilities end. The development of EAPs provides valuable input for local planners to use in developing "off-site" emergency response plans to address the impacts of a catastrophic dam failure. Therefore, regardless of which EAP regulations a dam owner/operator is subject to, each local government should use the risk assessment information in the EAPs to develop a robust hazard-specific Dam Safety Annex to their local Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP).

In August 2010, the New York State Office of Emergency Management (NYS OEM) partnered with NYS DEC to deliver regional workshops on dam safety preparedness. The workshops provided valuable information into dam safety preparedness and regulations and included the following resources and links: