Author Topic: FEMA's new State Dam Safety Program Manual spells the end of unsafe Erie Canal Embankments  (Read 68 times)

Doug K

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If some of you reading this post are not aware, unsafe earthen & cement dams are a REAL problem in the United States.

Much of this came to light with the recent collapse of several dams in varied states, that revealed just how big a problem dam safety has become in America. It's estimated that more than half of the dams in our country are high-hazard / high risk right now, based on risk analysis that looks at two factors: "hazard creep" and dam condition.

Hazard Creep is defined as this: A change in hazard classification as the result of downstream development

For the Erie Canal Embankments, with most earthen & cement dam sections at least 100 years old, that means that creep is the 100 years of growth along the Canalway, and the fact that 75% of the state population is located within 25 miles of the Erie main channels.

And as expected the US Government has taken notice of unsafe dams, especially FEMA, who also pens most of the Dam Safety & Standards publications that are used on the Federal Level, and with the support of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO).

Under a new NATIONAL Dam Safety Program (NDSP) banner, FEMA has just released a new Dam Safety Manual, that may become the boilerplate for ALL STATES in AMERICA very soon. You can find information about the NDSP here:

At first glance you can see that this FEMA publication already has the seal of approval by the ASDSO, so EVERY state will eventually be adopting this format for their own Dam Safety Manual.

This new manual includes a standardized approach to the written documents, content of the manual and all processes related to dam safety, from INSPECTION to Emergency Preparedness.

And from the new FEMA Manual, here's the most important section of the manual, the Chapter that defines the standards and what should be done with EXISTING DAMS, like those that make up the Navigation channel from Lockport to where the dug portion of the canal system meets the central "river section" of the NYS Canal System.

As most people are a bit too lazy to read some of these pages completely I have highlighted the sentences or sections that matter most to earthen type dams.

Just a casual glance should show the reader that every community in this country, should take local dam safety issues seriously. The discussion is about safety, first and foremost, with an emphasis on identifying and then removing the "hazardous conditions" and lowering the RISK of a potential flood event. The US Government does not believe that humans should die, or be at risk of property loss, just because mankind has a desire to impound water for a variety of reasons.

If you build a Dam in this Country you have to insure it's safe construction, operation, maintenance & ongoing inspection against Federal & State dam standards. 

And as many may know, the NYS Canal Corporation has been way ahead of the National dam safety effort, by creating their own Embankment Integrity (Safety) Guidebook for their Earthen Embankment Integrity Program (EEIP).

A quick review of that EEIP manual release shows that New York State has almost modeled the FEMA level exactly, having most if not all of the required elements.

More reading on Earthen Dam Risk Management here:

It certainly looks like the US Federal Government will soon have a say in methods used to insure Dam Safety for all dams, in all states, throughout the country, including those along the Erie Canal, and those dams built to feed water to the NYS canal System. They are 100 years old, some of the OLDEST dams in the entire nation.

If anyone who uses the NYS Canal System thinks that dam safety should be about "saving trees" and not about "saving people", they should re-examine their ethics & humanity.