Dam Safety and Levee Info

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).

FEMAs National Dam Safety Program Publications 

Cover photo for the document: Federal Guidelines for Dam Safety Risk Management

  • Federal Guidelines for Emergency Action Planning for Dams (FEMA P-1025) (2015). This document provides guidelines for implementing risk-informed decision making in a dam safety program. The intended audience is Federal agencies that own or regulate dams. The guidelines could also be applied to non-federally owned or regulated dams that can impact federally owned or regulated facilities; however, this would require the cooperation and involvement of the non-Federal dam owner. https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/101958.
  • Selecting Analytic Tools for Concrete Dams Address Key Events Along Potential Failure Mode Paths   (FEMA P-1016).  (2014). The purpose of this document is to stress the importance of understanding the sequences of events leading to failure of concrete dams and selecting analysis methods that address these specific events.  The selected analysis method may range from straightforward to compleCover photo for the document: Selecting Analytic Tools for Concrete Dams Address Key Events Along Potential Failure Mode Pathsx, depending on the potential failure mode being analyzed. It is stressed that a less complex analysis with less uncertainty is the preferred strategy. Included in this report and the appendices are examples of this process. These examples are not intended to be a complete listing of concrete dam potential failure modes. Each dam is unique and has its own issues; therefore, it is important for the engineer to understand the potential failure modes and sequences of events that enable them.  https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/101840.
  • Federal Guidelines for Inundation Mapping of Flood Risks Associated with Dam Incidents and Failures (March 2014)  The purpose of this document is to provide dam safety professionals with guidance on how to prepare dam breach inundation modeling studies and conduct mapping that can be used for multiple purposes, including dam safety, hazard mitigation, consequence evaluation, and emergency management including developing EAPs. This guidance is intended to provide a consistent approach that can be applied across the country.  http://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/34193.
  • National Dam Safety Program Strategic Plan (FEMA-P-916) (2013. 24 pp.). This strategic plan, which covers fiscal years 2012 through 2016, presents the goals and objectives established by FEMA and its partners in the National Dam Safety Program to reduce the hazards from dam failures and demonstrate the benefits of dams in the United States.  https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/34179.
  • Living With Dams: Know Your Risks is a FEMA booklet designed to help answer questions about dams: what purposes they serve, associated risks, guidance for those living near dams, and where to find further information.  You can also download it from the FEMA Library:  https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/28161.
  • Emergency Action Planning for Dam Owners (FEMA 64). (2013) Guidelines to encourage strict safety standards in the practices and procedures employed by federal agencies or required of dam owners regulated by the federal agencies. Guidelines to encourage emergency action planning for dams to help save lives and reduce property damage .
  • Dam Safety: Selecting and Accommodating Inflow Design Floods for Dams (August 2013).  Link to Selecting+and+Accommodating+Inflow+Design+Floods+for+Dams,.  These guidelines provide thorough and consistent procedures for selecting and accommodating inflow design floods (IDFs), the flood flow above which the incremental increase in water surface elevation downstream due to the failure of a dam or other water retaining structure no longer presents an unacceptable additional downstream threat. 
  • Glossary of Terms (FEMA 148) A provision of common terminology for dam safety for use within and among the federal agencies (2004).
  • Hazard Potential Classification System for Dams (FEMA 333)  (2004) Guidelines that set forth a hazard potential classification system for dams that is simple, clear, concise and adaptable to any agency’s current system.
  • Be Aware of Potential Dam Failure in Your Community Fact Sheet.  August 2016  This Be Aware of Potential Dam Failure in Your Community Fact Sheet, a 2 page flyer, is for the general public.  Approximately 14,000 dams in the United States are classified as high-hazard potential, meaning that their failure could result in loss of life.  The most important steps you can take to protect yourself from dam failure are to know your risk. Dams present risks, but they also provide many benefits.
  • Pocket Safety Guide for Dams and Impoundments (FEMA P-911)This guide was developed as a quick reference to help dam owners and others assess low hazard dams and impoundments (2016).
  • Brochure: Overtopping Protection for Dams (FEMA P-1014).  A brochure that describes best practices for design, construction, problem identification, maintenance, renovation, and repair (2014).
  • Technical Manual: Overtopping Protection for Dams (FEMA P-1015).  The National Dam Safety Program sponsored the development of a technical manual, in conjunction with the Bureau of Reclamation, to collect and disseminate useful and relevant information regarding the design, construction, and performance of overtopping protection alternatives for embankment and concrete dams (2014).
  • Assessing the Consequences of Dam Failures.  A How-To Guide.  The FEMA developed Assessing the Consequences of Dam Failure: A How-To Guide to provide community officials and interested stakeholders with a process for assessing the potential economic, social, and environmental impacts of dam failure.  (2012).

Levee Resources/Links

Link to read about levees and risk and so that you can easily print.

  • What does it mean to “live with a levee”?  
  • FEMA Levee Resources – Access fact sheets on living behind levees, the NFIP, and frequently asked questions for the public as well as other levee-related information.
  • Operating Guidance 12-13, Non- Accredited Levee Analysis and Mapping Guidance.  This document provides guidance to FEMA Regional Offices, Cooperating Technical Partners (CTP), and contractor staff that manage or perform flood risk projects where non-accredited levee systems have been identified. Operating Guidance documents provide best practices for the FEMA Risk MAP program. These guidance documents are intended to support current FEMA standards and facilitate effective and efficient implementation of these standards.
  • Analysis and Mapping Procedures for Non-Accredited Levees released in July 2013. Non-accredited levee systems are levee systems that do not meet all requirements outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at Title 44, Chapter I, Section 65.10 (44 CFR 65.10) along the entire length of the levee system.  FEMA recognizes that levee systems that do not fully meet the requirements set forth in 44 CFR 65.10 may still provide a measure of flood risk reduction; for that reason, the Agency has developed a suite of procedures for providing a more refined depiction of flood hazards on affected Flood Insurance Rate Map panels.

For additional information, visit the FEMA Final Levee Analysis and Mapping Approach webpage.

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