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For More Information:

Josh Rockwell
Dam Safety Officer
(202) 208-2633

Contact OSMRE


Dam Safety

Approaches to Dam Safety have evolved throughout the years because of knowledge gained through dam failures. Dam Safety Programs have become a significant element in many agencies to ensure protection of the public and the environment by reducing risks associated with dams.

Historical events have prompted review of mechanisms to oversee the design, construction, maintenance and operation of dams. The impact has been so far outreaching that agencies have established Dam Safety Programs, guidelines, directives, departmental manuals to help reduce risks associated with dams.

The Department of Interior's (DOI's) Dam Safety Programs are governed by the following:

OSMRE's Dam Safety program has progressed through implementation of newer standards of oversight to help reduce the probability of adverse consequences in dams. OSMRE's Dam Safety Work Group is comprised of Regional Dam Safety Representatives and OSMRE's Dam Safety Officer. The Dam Safety Work Group works to review current regulations, directives, guidelines and other mechanisms to ensure that current practices are used.

Each Regional Office has a Dam Safety Representative responsible for providing quarterly updates to the Dam Safety Program Manager. Part of the representatives' responsibilities includes inventory update. The Inventory includes hazard criteria (High, Significant and Low hazard dams), performance indicators, storage capacity, impoundment inspection status, location and other pertinent criteria in accordance with DOISM 753. The inventory is maintained in a central database at Headquarters (HQ). It is based on the Mine Safety Health Administration's (MSHA's) 20 Acre-foot criteria of an inspectable unit.

OSMRE dams are ranked in accordance with the Hazard classification followed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service Technical Release (TR) No. 60 (2005). The database also includes FEMA 333 hazard classification of High, Significant and Low hazard dams (impoundments).

OSMRE is taking a proactive role in participating in DOI's Working Group on Dam Safety and Security (WGDSS) to further delineate more precise language on detailing hazard classification criteria. This will facilitate hazard classification characterization schemes within the bureaus.

Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) in the form of emergency procedures are being created for all High and Significant Dams. These plans are frequently reviewed to determine if any updates are necessary. OSMRE encourages the use of FEMA 64 EAPs format.

The Dam Safety Work Group is also reviewing inspection criteria to standardize forms with the most up to date material to evaluate dams. OSMRE inspectors certify via inspection reports that the impoundments are constructed or maintained in accordance with the approved plans. The inspectors must review all documentation and inspect the impoundment to determine instability, structural weakness, depth and elevation of impounded matter, storage capacity, population and environmental impacts, and other significant criteria

In addition, regarding the joint regulatory roles between OSMRE and MSHA, OSMRE and MSHA hold annual meetings to review and improve processes. OSMRE is an active participant in the WGDSS. OSMRE Dam Safety representatives also keep abreast with industry standards through participation in conferences, meetings and work groups to maintain the highest standards within this program.

OSMRE has recognized the importance of this program for providing a mechanism to improve risk reduction in the design, construction and maintenance of mining operation activities. Management has and will continue to support the improvement in a proactive manner within the dam safety arena.

Team Members

Title Contact
OSMRE Dam Safety Officer Josh Rockwell, (202) 208-5023
Appalachian Region Dam Safety Representative Stefanie Self, (412) 937-2105
Mid-Continent Region Dam Safety Representative Stephen Partney, (618) 463-6463 x5135
Western Region Dam Safety Representative Matthew Hulbert, (303) 293-5034

Dam Safety Program Independent Oversight Review

Every 7 years, all DOI bureaus with dam safety programs are evaluated through a peer-review process managed by DOI's Bureau of Reclamation. OSMRE's next review is scheduled for February 2015.

Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) Training Resources

Association of State Dam Safety Officials Annual Conference
Sept. 21-25 - San Diego, CA

Dam Safety Training Website

ASDSO Webinars


What is the purpose of OSMRE's Dam Safety Program?

Ensure that dams under OSMRE's regulatory authority do not present unacceptable risks to public safety and property.

What is NID?

The National Inventory of Dams (NID) is a Congressionally authorized dam safety and management tool, which documents dams in the U.S. and its territories. The NID was reauthorized in Section 215 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-303). The NID is maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in cooperation with the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO), the states and territories, and dam owning Federal Agencies.

How are dams classified?

Dam classification within OSMRE is ranked in accordance with the Hazard classification followed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Technical Release No. 60.

What other regulations or guidance documents impact dam safety?

What is an EAP and what is its purpose?

An EAP is an Emergency Action Plan. Although, OSMRE does not require EAPs as defined in FEMA 64, it recommends having it as an emergency procedure as defined in 816.49 (a) (13). In fact, all high and significant dams under OSMRE's Federal oversight have EAPs.

Page Last Modified/Reviewed: 5/26/15

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