The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

May 15, 2013

Water Resources Development bill would make Ohio’s dams safer, protect communities

Staff Writer

— U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), outlined Tuesday, how the Water Resource Development bill would make Ohio’s dams safer and protect Ohio communities, including Ashtabula County.

Nearly 1,000 dams in Ohio are considered “high” or “significant” hazards. Should dam breakage or flooding occur, local homes and business could suffer significant damage as many of these dams lack an emergency action plan (EAP), Brown said.

The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is legislation containing important resources for dam inspections and maintenance. Brown said if a dam breaks and communities flood, families and business owners in too many communities would be ill-prepared for an emergency.

There are 18 dams in Ashtabula County that are considered “high” or “significant” hazard dams. These dams include Camp Whitewood Lake dam in Windsor Township; the Naji Lake dam in Windsor Township; the Holiday Camplands Lake dam in Andover Township; the Ashtabula County Outdoor Club Lake dam in Kingsville; the Roaming Rock Shores Lake dam in Morgan Township; the Lake Cardinal dam in Rome Township; the Lower Jeffco Lake dam in Wayne Township; the Elkem Fluid Waste Pond 3A in Ashtabula; the Elkem Effluent Treatment Pond No. 4 in Ashtabula; the Lake Kenisee dam in Austinburg Township; the Elkem Sludge Holding Pond 5C dam in Ashtabula; the North Kingsville Lake dam; the North Kingsville Route 20 Lake dam; the Pierce-Ruhland Pond dam in Kingsville; the Lake George dam in Austinburg Township; the Lake Asegra dam in Austinburg Township; the Palmetto Lake dam in Geneva-on-the-Lake; and the Dorset Wildlife Area Wetland dam.

The Senate will vote on the WRDA this week, which also includes stronger safety requirements through the reauthorization of the expired National Dam Safety Program (NDSP).

Brown said passage of the bill will provide critical resources for inspections of dams, allow for identification of local hazardous dams as well as allow for identification of local inundation maps.

Mark Ogden, of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials, said the NDSP is a small but effective program.

“The program is vital to help protect residents and business owners located near dams,” he said. “This bill will definitely help the state citizens.”

Brown said every three to seven years the WRDA is updated to include today’s problems.

“We kind of modernize it,” he said. “It’s a partnership between the Federal Government, local business and local government. Working together, we are going to make a difference in the lives of homeowners and business owners.”

The development of EAPs for the communities that are lacking such a plan will identify potential conditions at dams and outline procedures to minimize loss of life and property damage should a dam fail. Dam owners work with state and local officials to prepare the plans, Brown said.

EAPs usually provide preventative maintenance instructions; maps that indicate areas susceptible to flooding; lists of potential emergency conditions, like extreme weather, that could trigger dam failure; suggested notification procedures for first responders and the general public; and resources and supplies available for those impacted.