|Municipal Dam Safety Regulations|
The Mandate: New York State's local governments own a significant number of Class C “High Hazard” and Class B “Intermediate Hazard Potential” dams. In 2008, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) proposed new dam regulations that would require owners of the 5,000 dams in New York to keep detailed design and modification records, as well as operation, maintenance and emergency action plans available for state inspection. These new regulations were in response to recent dam failures, as well as amendments made to Environmental Conservation Law back in 1999, to expressly require all dam owners to operate and maintain such structures in a safe condition.
In 2009, the DEC adopted revised regulations requiring local governments who own Class C and Class B dams to conduct extensive inspections of such dams without any state assistance. There is also the concern that, when faced with the significant costs associated with complying with these new regulations, private dam owners may “abandon” their dams. As a result, municipalities -- in order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens -- may have to assume ownership of the abandoned dams and thus involuntarily subject themselves to the burdensome and expensive regulations.
These new regulations represent a significant unfunded mandate.
The Cost: It has been estimated that a basic inspection for a C-class dam will cost an estimated $3,000 to $15,000 every two years depending on the size of the dam. In addition, an engineering assessment would be required every ten years. These estimates do not take into account the expensive remediation work that will become necessary based upon the inspection report finding. While not every municipality owns a dam, some small communities have several of these dams and this mandate would decimate their budgets or render them unable to obtain necessary insurance.
The Solution: Dam safety is a statewide problem that demands the attention and resources of the state and its relevant agencies, not a mere shifting of cost and responsibility to property taxpayers.