Dam safety bill clears Massachusetts Senate

Conservancy-supported legislation to make removal of unsafe dams easier appears headed for approval by Massachusetts legislators. The bill would establishes a revolving loan fund and ensures state oversight and safety measures.

BOSTON, MA | July 28, 2011

The Senate passed dam safety legislation filed by State Senator Marc R. Pacheco Thursday afternoon ensuring further state oversight, the establishment of a revolving loan fund and various safety measures relative to dams in the Commonwealth.

“Back in October of 2005, the Commonwealth experienced a series of severe storms, which resulted in record breaking levels of rain that threatened the safety of public and private dams throughout the state, including in my hometown of Taunton,” said Pacheco. “In response to widespread public concern, the Senate Post Audit and Oversight Committee, which I chaired at the time, launched an investigation into dam safety and maintenance in the state. The Committee released a report (Decades of Neglect: Recommendations to Improve Dam Safety and Maintenance in Massachusetts.) with its findings and recommendations in May of 2006."

In January 2011, five years after the committee’s report, Auditor DeNucci released a Financial Impact Review of dam safety in the Commonwealth. While focusing primarily on the dams regulated by the Office of Dam Safety, the report found that many of these problems still had not been addressed.

“This legislation passed today will finally address many of the problems outlined in previous reports on dams in the commonwealth,” said Pacheco. I am so pleased that we have moved forward on the issue of dam safety. This bill will significantly improve the safety of communities that have vulnerable dams while providing a funding mechanism to help municipalities and private dam owners address dam repair and removal costs”

“We appreciate Senator Pacheco’s leadership on this bill that will increase opportunities to remove unneeded dams and help restore rivers to a more resilient, natural condition reducing the risks of flooding and enabling aquatic animals to survive,” said Wayne Klockner, State Director, The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts.
This legislation ensures that the state:

  • Develop and maintain a complete inventory of all dams, public or private;
  • Write Emergency Action Plans for all high and significant hazard dams; local and state officials must have immediate access to such plans in the event of a potential dam failure 
  • Develop an inspection schedule including: Inspecting High Hazard Dams every 2 years; Significant Hazard Dams every 5 years; and Low Hazard Dams every 10 years; the hazard classification of all dams will be reviewed every 5 years
  • Identify dams that are eligible for removal, where appropriate;
  • Establishes a Revolving Loan Fund to provide low-interest long-term loans to private dam owners and cities and towns to inspect, repair and remove dams
  • Funding Source: Water Pollution Abatement Trust
  • The money in this fund currently is not being used for other existing programs. It will be repurposed for dam repair and removal.
  • This makes $14.5 million available immediately for the Dam Repair and Removal Revolving Loan Fund and a total of approximately $23million will be available 6-7 years from now when outstanding loans under the water pollution abatement trust fund are paid.
  • Allows cities and towns to bond for the repair, improvement or removal of municipally owned dams
  • Increases the fines that can be imposed on dam owners who violate state dam safety regulations, from $500 to $5,000 per violation and $5,000 for every continuous violation.

The bill now goes to the House for further action.

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Contact information

Office of Marc R. Pacheco


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