Nationally, about 40 percent of High-Hazard Potential Dams don’t have emergency action plans. In Missouri, that percentage is much higher.
Supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a new dam safety outreach program will assist the Missouri Department of Natural Resources in working with dam owners to get emergency plans in place.
Project spokesman Ron Butler says the goal is to creat emergency action plans for all dams in Missouri — and nationwide — to protection lives and property in the event of a breach.
Butler says an action plan includes a map of the potential inundation area along with procedures for warning downstream emergency management authorities.
Butler says they’re working with private dam owners to get everyone on board with creating emergency action plans. Some are rural, some are in suburban areas. Likewise, dams across the state are owned by private residents, companies and municipalities. Others are owned by the state.
As of this year, only 34 of Missouri’s 469 dams had emergency action plans.
When the Upper Taum Sauk reservoir in the Ozarks breached in the Ozarks four years ago, three children were seriously injured. DNR is hoping proper emergency action plans will help prevent such catastrophes from happening in the future.
DNR dam safety engineers and staff inspect the dams and provide assistance to dam owners in completing an EAP. Nationally, 40 percent of approximately 8,300 state-regulated HHP dams do not have EAPs.
“High-Hazard Potential means there could be loss of life and significant property damage in the event of a breach,” DNR states. “The HHP designation does not in any way reflect the current condition of the dam’s structural integrity. HHP dams that fall under state regulation are inspected every two or three years by Missouri DNR engineers, depending on the characteristics of downstream residential, business, and public use development.”
Using the EAP, county and local emergency management officials can identify the location of businesses, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, residences, and highways at risk, shelters and emergency resources, and other information crucial for an efficient response, including evacuation procedures and routes if needed.
DNR has regulatory authority over dams that are more than 35 feet high, though there are exemptions for agricultural dams and those regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, such as the dams for Harry S. Truman Lake, Mark Twain Lake, Stockton Lake, Table Rock Lake, Clearwater Lake, Wappapello Lake, and Lake of the Ozarks.
Persons at risk in a dam failure include those who live, work, or travel through an inundation zone. Campers, hunters, fishermen, hikers, other recreationists, and farm workers (and their livestock) also may be in need of the warning system an EAP can help provide. An EAP also helps emergency managers know who is outside the inundation zone and does not need to be evacuated.
At Taum Sauk, a stone retaining wall around a the mountaintop reservoir collapsed, releasing a billion-gallon deluge of water. Two homes were swept away, along with several vehicles. Three children were critically injured.
For more on the dam safety program, visit www.damsafetyaction.org.