Vol 20 No 8 November 16, 2012

Virginia Dam Safety Regulations:
Amendments to Provide Economic and Regulatory
Relief for Dam Owners

Major changes to the Virginia Impounding Structure Regulations (Regulations) were adopted on September 26, 2008, which resulted in improved dam safety, but significantly increased the economic burden on many existing dam owners. Several amendments have been adopted in the past few years to help provide some economic relief for a few dam owners. Recently, however, the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board directed the Department of Conservation and Recreation and a regulatory advisory panel to consider new amendments that would help provide economic and regulatory relief while still maintaining a high level of dam safety. The resulting amendments will became effective on November 8, 2012.

Proposed Dam Safety Regulation Amendments

The Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board (Board) directed the Department of Conservation and Recreation's Division of Dam Safety and Floodplain Management (DCR-DDSFM) to consider the following three items for regulatory action:
1. Develop regulations (considering existing guidance) that consider the impact of downstream limited-use or private roadways with low traffic volume and low public safety risk on the determination of the hazard potential classification of an impounding structure
2. Develop regulations that provide a method to conduct a simplified dam break inundation zone analysis
3. Develop regulations that set out the necessary requirements to obtain a general permit for a low hazard impounding structure.
As a result of this directive, the amended Regulations now exclude secondary highways and low traffic roadways with an annual average daily volume of 400 vehicles or less in consideration of the economic damage which may occur from a dam failure. This amendment may allow many significant hazard dams to be reclassified as low hazard.

The amended Regulations now also allow dam owners to request that DCR-DDSFM perform a simplified dam break analysis to determine whether an impounding structure should be classified as low hazard for dams that are currently not certified or when conditions change in the downstream inundation zone. A fee of $2,000 shall be required to cover the partial cost of this analysis and is non-refundable once the analysis has commenced. If the dam is found to be a significant or high hazard dam, the owner may be required to provide additional analysis at the owner's expense.

In addition, the Regulations were amended to provide detailed requirements for owners of low hazard dams to obtain a general operations and maintenance permit - resulting in lower processing fees and allowing annual inspections by the owner, as opposed to periodic inspections by a professional engineer.

For additional information, refer to the Agency Background Document posted on the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall website.

If you have questions concerning the amended dam safety regulations and how they may affect you, please contact Mike Marsala.