Dam and Levee Guidance


National Dam Safety Program

The National Dam Safety Program (NDSP) is a partnership of the States, Federal agencies, and other stakeholders that encourages and promotes the establishment and maintenance of effective Federal and state dam safety programs to reduce the risks to human life, property, and the environment from dam related hazards.  Additionally, the National Dam Safety Review Board (NDSRB) has been established to advise the FEMA Administrator in setting national dam safety priorities and considers the effects of national policy issues affecting dam safety.  Review Board members include FEMA, the Chair of the Board and representatives from four federal agencies (U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, and Interior), five state dam safety officials, and one member from the private sector.  National Inventory of Dams Congress first authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to inventory dams in the United States with the National Dam Inspection Act of 1972.

The NID was first published in 1975, with a few updates as resources permitted over the next ten years.  The Water Resources Development Act of 1986 (P.L. 99-662) authorized the Corps to maintain and periodically publish an updated NID, with reauthorization and a dedicated funding source provided under the Water Resources Development Act of 1996.  USACE also began close collaboration with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and state regulatory offices to obtain more accurate and complete information.  The National Dam Safety and Security Act of 2002 and the Dam Safety Act of 2006 reauthorized the National Dam Safety Program and included the maintenance and update of the NID by USACE.  Most recently, the NID was reauthorized as part of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014.  The NID is published every two years.  (http://nid.usace.army.mil/


National Dam Safety Program releases the Dam Incident Planning Guide

November 21, 2019

FEMA’s National Dam Safety Program (NDSP) has released its newest publication – Emergency Operations Planning: Dam Incident Planning Guide.  The Dam Incident Planning Guide supports state, local, tribal, and territorial emergency managers in planning for dam incidents and failures by summarizing the concepts that a community should consider when creating dam incident-specific elements of local emergency operations plans.  This Guide builds on the Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) 101: Developing and Maintaining Emergency Operations Plans.  It also provides guidance for dam owners and operators on how to engage with emergency managers prior to an incident to ensure a well-coordinated response.

This Guide is intended to help community planners create a plan to respond to dam incidents that take place in, or affect, their communities.  Some communities will choose to address dam incidents in an annex to their emergency operations plan or comprehensive emergency management plan or as an appendix to other base planning products, or they will create a stand-alone dam incident plan.  A general template is included in Appendix A for a community dam incident plan that can be adapted to meet each community’s needs.

The NDSP offers a Dam Safety Collaborative Technical Assistance (CTA) program.  Through this program, emergency managers work collaboratively with neighboring communities, agencies, and the private sector to gain a detailed understanding of the risks they face from local and regional dams and how those risks can be addressed.  A key product of the CTA program is a completed dam incident plan or annex, which this guide has been produced to inform this process and help dam owners and operators to engage with emergency managers prior to an incident to ensure a well-coordinated response.

Learn more!

For more information on the Dam Incident Planning Guide, please visit https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/184884

To learn more about the National Dam Safety Program, please visit https://www.fema.gov/national-dam-safety-program

For a list of Dam Safety Technical Manuals and Guides, please visit https://www.fema.gov/technical-manuals-and-guides


National Inventory of Dams Now Available to the Public

February 2019

What once was a highly restricted database that required requesting special access, the National Inventory of Dams (NID), is now open and available for public download.  The NID is a congressionally authorized database documenting dams in the United States and its territories.  It is maintained and published by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and in collaboration with the FEMA aims to obtain more accurate and complete information.

The NID is available at http://nid.usace.army.mil and was populated using the 116th Congressional District information and all charts, queries and maps reflect the most current NID database. State and federal dam regulators provided their data from May to November 2018 for inclusion in the 2018 database.

Major changes to the 2018 NID allow users to download or export certain NID data and to view the hazard potential classification.  State or federal agencies may restrict access to information on dams within their jurisdiction, so for information not published in the NID, USACE recommends consulting the agency exercising responsibility over the dam.  The hazard potential classification, as published in the NID, does not reflect the condition of a dam.  That information can be found in the condition assessment, which is available to approved government users.  Historically, the NID has been published every two years.  Starting in 2019, the NID will be updated annually.

The goal of the NID is to include all dams in the U.S. that meet specific criteria, yet, is limited to information that can be gathered and properly interpreted with the given funding.  The NID initially consisted of approximately 45,000 dams, which were gathered from extensive record searches and some feature extraction from aerial imagery.  Since continued and methodical updates have been conducted, data collection has been focused on the most reliable data sources, which are the many federal and state government dam construction and regulation offices and now is up to 90,000 dams.  In most cases, dams within the NID criteria are regulated (construction permit, inspection, and/or enforcement) by federal or state agencies, who have basic information on the dams within their jurisdiction.

The NID consists of dams meeting at least one of the following criteria:

(1) High hazard potential classification – loss of human life is likely if the dam fails;

(2) Significant hazard potential classification – no probable loss of human life but can cause economic loss, environmental damage, disruption of lifeline facilities, or impact other concerns;

(3) Equal or exceed 25 feet in height and exceed 15 acre-feet in storage;

(4) Equal or exceed 50 acre-feet storage and exceed 6 feet in height.

For further information on the National Inventory of Dams visit: https://www.fema.gov/2018-national-inventory-dams.  To access and download the database visit: http://nid.usace.army.mil


Dam Safety Day Reminds Us of Benefits, Responsibilities of Dam Ownership

May 31, 2018

Kentucky has an abundance of natural water resources that provide opportunities for residents from recreation to providing drinking water.  You can’t drive far in the state without coming across one of Kentucky’s abundant natural water resources.

On top of 90,000 miles of rivers and streams here, there are more than 1,000 dams that serve many purposes for the citizens of the commonwealth of Kentucky.

The Kentucky Division of Water has the job of managing, protecting and upgrading the quality of the commonwealth’s water resources, and as part of that mission the Division of Water’s Dam Safety Program oversees more than 950 dams in the program.

Dams have several benefits.  They provide pools that provide drinking water, are used for flood control, recreation, wildlife habitat and power generation. But they also pose risks.

When a body of water is pooled by creating a dam, there is an inherent risk involved for infrastructure, people or property who may be in the flood path of that water if the dam isn’t properly maintained.  While dam failures are rare, they do happen.  And without proper risk management, the consequences of a dam failure, however unlikely, can be devastating.

Most dams aren’t owned by the government, but do fall under government regulatory authority.  That means private dam owners are responsible for maintenance, repairs and ensuring the public, property and infrastructure that may be associated with their dam all remains safe.  Dam rehabilitation projects commonly range from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars per dam; costs that may place a huge burden on dam owners, highlighting the need for proper dam maintenance and upkeep.

Division of Water Dam Safety and Floodplain Compliance staff periodically inspect regulated dams – approximately 300 dams each year.  If deficiencies are found, dam owners are required to correct them in close coordination with the Division.  Where deficiencies remain, enforcement action is sometimes required to ensure proper safety requirements, maintenance, or modification.

Kentucky does own some dams

The Division of Water manages the State-owned Dam Repair Program. Kentucky’s budget sets out funding to manage, plan, and execute projects to upgrade and rehabilitate dams owned by state agencies.  Past projects include:

  • Guist Creek Lake Dam – Shelby County
  • Greenbo Lake Dam – Greenup County
  • Kincaid Creek Dam – Pendleton County
  • Lake Beshear – Caldwell County
  • Lake McNeeley – Jefferson County

The Dam Safety program currently has two active repair projects under way.

  • Scenic Lake Dam at John J. Audubon State Park – Henderson County.  Phase I – The project will stabilize and strengthen the dam’s foundation to protect against failure due to earthquakes.  Phase II – The existing spillway will be replaced to provide capacity to pass the design flood (approximately 28 inches of rain in 6 hours).
  • Bullock Pen – Boone/Grant Counties.  The dam’s spillway will be replaced so that the dam can pass the design flood.

Dams provide opportunities and benefits for most of the residents of the commonwealth.  While they can pose risks, they can also be economic drivers, provide recreational and infrastructure opportunities and create some of the most scenic landscapes in the country.


Dam Removal on Slate Creek

November 2017

Low-head dam on Slate Creek in Bath County was recently removed.  To find out more about the removal and other opportunities to remove obstacles to fish migration visit the Ohio River Foundation website.


Frequently Asked Questions on Removal of Obsolete Dams

January 2017  

There is a growing awareness in the U.S. of the need to address obsolete dams that impair our waterways.  Removal of these dams has been on the rise in the United States for a variety of reasons, including ecological restoration, economic development of communities, addressing concerns with localized flooding, improvement of recreational opportunities, restoration of fish spawning and migration, and addressing safety issues for recreational users due to dangerous hydraulics.  In support of these efforts and in response to an increase in the number of inquiries regarding EPA policies, regulations, and potential funding opportunities as they relate to removal of obsolete dams, the EPA is providing the following answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

Link to: FAQs on Removal of Obsolete Dams (PDF) (15 pp, 524 K, December 2016, EPA-840-F-16-001).


Have questions, contact us at kentuckymitigation@gmail.com.  Don’t forget to join the KAMM group on LinkedIn.