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News Release

RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade St., Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462

For Release:

May 31, 2000

Media Contact:

Gail Mastrati 222-4700 ext. 2402
Stephanie Powell 222-4700 ext. 4418


Will Address Repair and Maintenance of State's 510 Dams

PROVIDENCE - Governor Lincoln Almond today created the Dam Safety and Maintenance Task Force to develop recommendations to ensure that the 510 dams across the state are effectively maintained. Almond's announcement comes as Rhode Island joins with other state's throughout the United States in observance of the first National Dam Safety Awareness day, designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"There are a significant number of dams throughout our state, many of which pose serious safety threats, that must be properly inspected and maintained on a regular basis," said Almond. "Through the Task Force, and with the help of DEM, the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, and local dam owners, we will establish a comprehensive method of monitoring, maintenance and repairs that will ensure upkeep and safety."

The establishment of the Task Force implements a key proposal offered by the Department of Environmental Management in its annual report on the state's dam safety program, which was released today.

The Task Force will review information in the DEM annual report, as well as an evaluation of Rhode Island's dam safety program prepared for DEM in 1999 by Louis Berger Associates. The Task Force will formulate strategies to regulate and finance the repair of state, local and privately owned dams. It will also make recommendations by December 31, 2000 for funding assistance, changes in the way dams are classified and regulated, inspection and enforcement criteria, and public education concerning dam safety.

The task force will be comprised of 18 members including: the directors of DEM and the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, who will also serve as co-chairs; two members of the Senate and two members of the House; State Budget Officer; executive director of the Clean Water Finance Agency; three representatives of municipal government, as recommended by the League of Cities and Towns; two private dam owners; a representative of the Pascoag Reservoir Association; a representative of the Slacks Reservoir Association; a representative of the Quidneck Reservoir Association; a representative of the Indian Lake Association; a representative of the Natural Resource and Conservation Service of the federal Department of Agriculture.

DEM's report indicates there are currently 510 registered dams in Rhode Island, classified by size. In addition, sixteen are classified as high hazard dams, and 41 are classified as significant hazard dams. Under state law, dam owners are responsible for their safe operation, repair, and maintenance. DEM is charged with inspecting dams to determine their condition, reviewing and approving plans for construction and alteration, and ordering dam owners to make needed repairs.

Upon the discovery of dioxin in the Woonasquatucket River, and in response to resolutions passed by the Senate and House requiring DEM to inspect seven dams on that river, DEM staff found that five were not properly maintained. A more detailed analysis of those five was made indicating that during a 1-in-100-year storm, three could be susceptible to erosion leading to washout of sediments behind the dams, but that sudden catastrophic failure of any of the five dams appeared unlikely.

Thirty-two of the state's significant hazard dams were inspected in 1999, and 21 of these showed at least one component that was rated in poor condition. Six low hazard dams, inspected at the request of their owners, were rated as fair to poor. DEM also issued final inspection reports to the owners of 14 high hazard dams that had previously been inspected by DEM with assistance from the Department of Transportation and the US Army Corps of Engineers. Although the inspections had revealed deficiencies at each of the dams, none appeared to pose an imminent threat of failure. The reports listed the deficiencies and made recommendations for improvements.

Also in 1999, under its capital development projects program, DEM undertook the engineering evaluation, design, and/or reconstruction of three state-owned dams. Substantial reconstruction of the Olney Dam in Lincoln Woods State Park in Lincoln, which is classified as a high hazard dam, was completed last June at a total cost of $395,000 for engineering and construction. An $80,900 contract was awarded in October for the design of repairs to Bowdish Dam in Glocester. A consultant was retained in November for $19,000 to complete an engineering evaluation report for the high hazard Stillwater Dam in Smithfield.

By September, DEM will provide information on high and significant hazard dams in each community to the Emergency Management Agency. The EMA, in turn, will provide this information to local communities so they can include it in their emergency response plans for weather emergencies. Information about each dam will include its access points, the owner's name and contact information, and inspection information.

Dam Safety Program Annual Report (1999)- in Adobe Acrobat format

Download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software

To receive a copy of the Governor's Executive Order establishing the Task Force please call the Governor's Media Office at 222-2080 x. 248.

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