New Law Requires Dam Owners To Update Emergency Action Plans By August

A Baltimore Sun article (2017-05-07) announced that legislation (HB 125 of 2017) signed by Governor Lawrence “Larry” Hogan requires dam owners across the state to create or update emergency action plans (EAPs) by August of this year. An EAP establishes the procedures for alerting first responders and affected residents if a dam is about to fail. The article noted that more than 40 dams are affected by the legislation, including dams owned by local governments.

HB 125 requires owners of certain existing dams to submit an EAP to the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) by August 1, 2017. The covered dams include those that: (1) can cause the loss of human life or substantial property damage in the event of failure; and (2) has been designated or verified by MDE as a “high hazard” or “significant hazard” dam. The bill also specifies of the contents of an EAP and requires that they be updated annually. For new dams,  an EAP must be submitted to MDE as part of the construction permit process. Finally, the bill creates a reimbursement exemption where MDE has worked on a dam or reservoir but the owner demonstrates an inability to repay.

From the article:

[M]ore than 200 [Maryland dams] pose significant hazards to human life, major highways or homes, according to state inspectors.

That’s not because they are in poor condition, but because they are located near neighborhoods or busy arteries.

Forty-two of those 200 dams do not have emergency plans that have been updated within the past three years, according to a list officials provided to The Sun. …

Dams being targeted include structures at Greenspring Quarry in Baltimore County, Lake Waterford and the Annapolis Reservoir in Anne Arundel County, Cascade Lake, several Hampstead stormwater ponds and another retention pond at the TownMall of Westminster in Carroll County, and on the property of a stone and gravel business in Jessup in Howard County.

The article described how affected local governments are working to update their EAPs.

Dam owners reached by The Baltimore Sun, including county and municipal governments and private businesses, said they recognized the importance of the plans, and are working to update them. …

[David] Jarrell, the public works director in Annapolis, said the emergency plan for the city’s dam is in the process of being revised after repairs to the structure were completed last year. …

Tammi Ledley, Hampstead’s town manager, said a series of stormwater ponds in the town were recently reclassified as dams, prompting officials to scramble for a way to pay for an emergency plan.

The town has penciled in $36,000 in its budget for the coming fiscal year, expected to be approved in June, she said.

“It’s not the kind of things people can do in just one day,” Ledley said. “That’s a lot of money. … We’re working on it.”

Anne Arundel County spokesman Owen McEvoy said officials are working on an updated plan for Lake Waterford in Pasadena. He called the new requirement to update plans “the best way to ensure we are prepared should an emergency occur.”

Collin Sumpter, resource manager for Savage Stone LLC, said his company is also working on an emergency plan for what is known as the Laurel Lumber Dam in Howard. He said the company has “no issue complying with any new requirements” to keep the plan up to date.

The article also described MDE’s recent efforts to address a dam enforcement and review backlog and stressed the importance of dam owners providing up-to-date contact information to MDE.

Useful Links

HB 125 of 2017