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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 the review of mechanisms to oversee the design, construction, maintenance and operation of dams. The impact resulted in the establishment of Dam Safety Programs, guidelines, directives, departmental manuals to help reduce risks associated with dams.

OSMRE Dam Safety Program

OSMRE's Dam Safety Team is comprised of Regional Dam Safety representatives and OSMRE's Dam Safety Officer. The Dam Safety Team works to review current regulations, directives, guidelines and other mechanisms to ensure that current practices are used.

The Dam Safety Officer, with the assistance of the Regional Dam Safety Team representatives, maintains an inventory that includes hazard criteria (High, Significant and Low hazard dams), performance indicators, storage capacity, impoundment inspection status, location and other pertinent criteria for Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act dams. The inventory is based on the Mine Safety Health Administration's (MSHA's) definition of a dam.

OSMRE has recognized the importance of the Dam Safety Program for providing a mechanism to improve risk reduction in the design, construction and maintenance of mining operation activities.

For more information

Contact OSMRE Dam Safety Officer: 
Josh Rockwell, (202) 208-2633

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The purpose of the OSMRE Dam Safety Program is to ensure that dams under OSMRE's regulatory authority do not present unacceptable risks to public safety and property.

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.

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.

The following regulations impact OSMRE Dam Safety Program:

An Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is a written document that identifies incidents that can lead to potential emergency conditions at a dam, identifies the areas that can be affected by the less of reservoir and specifies pre-planned actions to be followed to minimize property damage, potential loss of infrastructure and water resource, and potential loss of life because of failure or mis-operation of a dam.

OSMRE does not require EAPs as defined in FEMA 64, but it does recommend having it as an emergency procedure as defined in 816.49 (a) (13).