Thursday, May 31, 2018

May 31: National Dam Safety Awareness Day, Commemorates Johnstown PA Dam Failure That Killed Over 2,200 People

On May 31st, we join together to commemorate National Dam Safety Awareness Day, remembering the lessons learned from past dam failures, pushing for strong dam safety programs, investing in Pennsylvania and America's critical infrastructure and rededicating ourselves to the effective public-private partnerships that work to keep America's dams safe, operational and resilient.
The issue of dam safety was not widely recognized until 1889 when the failure of South Fork Dam near Johnstown, Pennsylvania claimed more than 2,200 lives.
As we observe the 129th anniversary of this tragedy on May 31, we encourage you to know the benefits of dams, your risk, and your role; and, act. Dam safety is a shared responsibility.
In Pennsylvania
After the Johnstown Flood in 1889, it wasn’t until 1913 and after the collapse of another dam in Austin, Potter County in 1911 killing 78 people that Pennsylvania enacted the first known dam safety legislation in the United States.
The current 1978 Dam Safety and Encroachments Act was the result of yet another flood in Johnstown, this one in 1977 when six dams collapsed and killed 85 people.
The Department of Environmental Protection now regulates approximately 3,370 dams and reservoirs throughout the state, with 2,330 classified as low hazard potential (as of 2016).
There are approximately 752 high hazard dams regulated by DEP, with 288 of those having significant hazard potential.  Sixty-three percent of those dams are classified as deficient with 1.3 million people living downstream and at risk.  (Governor’s Budget page E16-13)
Ninety-five percent of all dams have an approved Dam Emergency Action Plan to deal with flood dangers, such identifying structures that could be inundated by a dam failure, adequate warnings and monitoring.
Action Plans are created by the dam owner in cooperation with local and county officials, DEP and the PA Emergency Management Agency.
The Governor’s 2018-19 budget request for an additional $2.5 million in funding for DEP includes additional resources to regulate high hazard dams.
For more information on dam safety, visit DEP’s Dam Safety webpage.
Also visit the PA Association of State Floodplain Managers, a statewide organization of floodplain managers, engineers, planners, local, state and federal officials, and water resource professionals who promote public awareness of integrated floodplain management.
The Association will hold its annual Conference September 18-19 in Harrisburg.
Click Here to learn if you are in a floodplain using FEMA Flood Maps.  Click Here to learn more about Flood Insurance to protect your home or business.  Click Here to learn more about Disaster Assistance, Floodplain mapping and more from the PA Emergency Management Agency.
[Note: The National Flood Insurance Program expires on July 31, 2018 unless it is reauthorized by Congress.]
Dams also cause other hazards, in particular to recreational boaters.  Visit the Fish and Boat Commission Hazards On The Water webpage to learn more.

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