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dam Safety review

dam Safety review

dam Safety review

In the jurisdiction you practice, who does assign (contract)a review engineer for Dr of dam with significant to extreme failure consequences. Iambic interested in answers from practitioners from the US, UK, Canada, Switzerland and Japan, if possible.

RE: dam Safety review

Correction: In the jurisdiction you practice, who would assign a review engineer to conduct a Dam Safety Review? Would that be the owner, the government or any other stakeholder?

(Sorry for typos in the original question)

RE: dam Safety review

case 1
the state or FERC regulates the dam
they feel that there is a deficiency
the owner is required to address the deficiency
the owner either does it himself or hires a consultant to assist

case 3
the state does not regulate the dam
the owner feels that there is a deficiency
the owner either does it himself or hires a consultant to assist

not sure what you mean by a "review" as most regulated dams have a license to operate and that not only requires a permit application and fees, but also requires a variety of things including as-builts and specs, engineers reports, geotechnical data, emergency action plan, inundation mapping, O&M manual, current and annual inspections etc. If something is missing out of the file, than it must be provided by the owner or the license to operate will be revoked and the dam could be removed or breached.

RE: dam Safety review

CV: Thank you for your feedback. The "review" here may be a little different than its general meaning. This is for Dam Safety Review (DSR) that is required for dams of (y) failure consequence every (x) years.

My intention is comparing experience of dam engineers in the US, Canada, UK and Switzerland on how they hire a review engineer for a DSR.

RE: dam Safety review

there is no such review around here and with the annual inspections for all dams, no need for another review

RE: dam Safety review

CVg: Thanks, that is interesting ans unexpected for me. May YOU let me know if "there is no such review.." in all states in the US?

RE: dam Safety review

Gather British Columbia is requiring a safety review of all tailings dams - breaking news!

RE: dam Safety review

Big. Not even in Europe? How can one be sure?

RE: dam Safety review

Would further appreciate to have views of dam engineering forum, too. It seems there is not a simple answer to this question.

RE: dam Safety review

Aren't those reviews under the jurisdiction of the Army COE and FERC?

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)

RE: dam Safety review

I am also eager to know answer to your question.

Apparently they do kind of _ dam safety review _ in WA. But do not know what its scope is and how it would differ from annual reviews.

RE: dam Safety review

Judging by the lack of clarity and knowledge expressed herein regarding dam safety issues, I would say, "Houston, we have a problem".
Glad I don't live downstream.

RE: dam Safety review

Is the problem on safety legislation and frequency of inspections or are you referring to overlooked technical matter(s)?

RE: dam Safety review


"Aren't those reviews under the jurisdiction of the Army COE and FERC?"

each US state has a dam safety program (except Alabama which does not...). they license all non federal and non FERC dams. The feds handle their own dams and all hydro dams are licensed by FERC. However, the federal and FERC dams also get annual inspections and reviews, which are required by federal statutes and rules.

in general, all dams in the US have had a phase 1 assessment performed (by the USACE) as a result of the national dam safety act which was triggered by the failure of Teton Dam. As a result of the dam safety act, each state was made responsible for safety of dams. In general all state dam safety programs require annual dam inspections (which also includes a desktop review of the hydrology, structural, geotechnical and other engineering analysis of the dam). The inspection and review is done on all regulatory dams, not just large or high risk ones. Based on the results of the state annual inspection and engineering review, the state makes a decision to deem the dam safe or unsafe. So, on an annual basis, the state licensing requirements are reviewed and must be met in order to continue to operate the dam. if they don't meet the requirements, most states have the statutory authority to breach the dam.

in general, of the states I have worked with, there is no specific requirement for a


"Dam Safety Review (DSR) that is required for dams of (y) failure consequence every (x) years."
instead, the state agency does their own review in conjunction with the annual inspection. if the state determines that a dam is unsafe, either emergency or non-emergency status, than the owner is required to either submit engineering analysis proving the dam is safe, or repair the dam.


RE: dam Safety review

Many thanks for your interesting comments. Just another question based on the following quotes of yours.

..the federal and FERC dams also get annual inspections and reviews
In general all state dam safety programs require annual dam inspections
The inspection and review is done on all regulatory dams
..the state agency does their own review (by whom) in conjunction with the annual inspection (by whom)

In the matter of conflict of interest, could you elaborate who assigns an engineer to do the annual inspections. Is the engineer assigned by the regulatory agency (state, federal) or by the owner of the dam?

RE: dam Safety review

the regulatory agencies do their own inspections and engineering reviews. if they don't have sufficient staff to handle it, then they hire a consultant to do it for them. That consultant generally needs to be a qualified dam engineer (no pun intended).

the dam owner is required to have an O&M manual and an emergency action plan with inundation mapping. These are also submitted to the state for approval. Both of these documents may require additional owner inspections and monitoring. The owner can hire anybody to do any inspection or engineering analysis they want.

their is no conflict of interest that I can see.

RE: dam Safety review

In another jurisdiction (non US)that I am aware of, the regulatory agency asks the dam owner to assign an engineer for (annual) inspections and reviews. The owner would then submit the inspection/review report to the regulatory agency to convince the regulator that the facility is safe. The regulatory agency does not assign an engineer by itself but would approve the report. This is prone to a conflict of interest.

I wonder if my understanding of your comment is right that in the US practice, the regulator hires the inspection/review engineer. I.e. the regulator pays for the (annual) inspection/review from public sources. This may be justified as the regulator is safeguarding the public interests (so that people do not hesitate to live in the d/s areas). Thanks again.

RE: dam Safety review

yes, you are correct. the state dam safety department is funded by local taxes and their goal is public safety. Good thing too, because not all owners put a high priority on the safety of their own dams and even if they do, they may not have the money.

RE: dam Safety review

ONENGINEER - Regarding the potential conflict of interest on federally owned dams: That is a legitimate question.

USACE, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and Bureau of Reclamation generally do their own dam engineering. USACE engineering staff are mostly spread out among district offices, although they recently (5? years ago) started up a center of dam and levee expertise called the Risk Management Center. They provide some oversight and consistency among districts.

Reclamation's engineering staff that do dam safety studies are mostly concentrated in one office, which operates much like a captive consulting firm. Inspections for Reclamation dams are annual; complete reviews of design, performance, changes in the state of practice, etc. are done once every 6 years. Generally, there are two or more lines of internal review, including a board of finicky old men and women (generally PEs and PGs with 20-30 years experience), and for more complex problems, a board of outside hotdogs may be hired (names you would recognize - Ralph Peck and Harry Seed were among the favorites.) There is enough separation of engineering and dam-safety management that the process can become adversarial, but mostly that's good, because it forces everyone to have their technical arguments spelled out in detail for examination.

Smaller agencies are more likely to hire a consultant, or another federal agency with more engineering staff to act as a consultant.

RE: dam Safety review

Federal projects are inspected and reviewed by federal agencies, funded by congress. due to funding, or lack of it - there indeed can be a conflict of interest. for federally operated and maintained structures, generally safety is of high concern. however, for turn over projects (locally sponsored projects), funding for operation and maintenance is often lacking and may not be a priority for a sponsor. while periodic inspections are conducted by the government, it is not unusual that risk reduction is not always the highest priority for the owner. this was made obvious painfully obvious in the aftermath of Katrina. I will note that NRCS contracts a lot of engineering out to consultants. And most NRCS structures have local sponsors, so it is incumbent on the sponsor to do the O&M.

RE: dam Safety review

dgillette, you mentioned that complete reviews of design, performance, changes in the state of practice, etc. are done once every 6 years.
This is now in addition to the annual inspection. I do not know what do they call this complete review. One may call it dam safety review every six years. But from one of the comments I thought there are no periodical systematic reviews for dams except the annual inspections. Coming back to my original question, I guess this 6 yearly reviews are done by regulatory agency not by the owners.

I would appreciate further clarifications, if possible.

RE: dam Safety review

Federal dam owners are generally self-regulated. In the case of Reclamation-owned dams, the 6-year comprehensive reviews are mostly done by Reclamation engineers, occasionally by consultants if work load requires it. And yes, it is in addition to the annual inspections. National Park Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs have similar goals, although it is mostly done by consultant (or other government agency acting as consultant).

I don't think most privately owned dams get that kind of scrutiny, except hydropower dams licensed by FERC. State requirements vary quite a bit from state to state.

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