Annual Dam Safety report shows strong progress

Report in from Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations

  • Aug. 7, 2012 11:00 a.m.

VICTORIA – Improved monitoring, increased audits, greater public awareness and higher staffing levels highlighted the B.C. government’s ongoing commitment to dam safety over the past year, according to the second annual B.C. Dam Safety report, released today.

The 2011-12 annual report includes data on incidents and failures, dam construction, inspections, compliance, corrective actions and program management highlights.

Between April 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012, the ministry issued compliance surveys to 313 high, very high, and extreme consequence dams, resulting in a 96 per cent return rate. Of the surveys returned, 95 per cent reported the completion of formal inspections and 56 per cent had hired qualified engineers to conduct full dam safety reviews.

The number of audits conducted during the reporting period increased to 130 from 99 the previous year, surpassing the target of 114 for 2011-12.

There were zero dam failures, one dam alert and seven minor incidents, all of which have been resolved to the ministry’s satisfaction.

As of February 2012, there were 1,640 regulated dams in B.C. ranging in size from massive concrete structures, such as Mica Dam, to small earth-filled dams used for domestic water storage. All dam owners in B.C. are responsible for the inspection and safety of their dams.

The annual Dam Safety report outlines the progress the B.C. government has made towards meeting the recommendations made in the deputy solicitor general’s July 2010 Review of the Testalinden Dam failure. This year’s achievements include:

* An addition of four full-time equivalents to work specifically on dam safety as well as training of compliance and enforcement officers in each region to support dam safety officers.

* Changes to the British Columbia dam safety regulation that bring the downstream consequence classification categories in line with those used

by the Canadian Dam Safety Association – extreme, very high, high, significant or low.

* Notifying more than 1,000 dam owners of the new dam safety regulation.

* Completion of 32 project reviews for new, rehabilitated or removed dams and 16 reviews associated with dam construction.

* Installation of new signs with emergency contact information at all government-owned dams on Crown land.

* Provided dam safety workshops to both private and government dam owners.

* Further improved the quality of dam information in the Dam Registry.

* Trained compliance and enforcement officers on emergency call-out procedures, allowing staff in the field to respond more quickly when concerns arise.

Much of the work done in 2010-11 focused on a rapid assessment of more than 1,100 dams, four of which required immediate attention. Less urgent follow-up was required for an additional 473 dams, 165 of which were followed-up on in 2011-12.

The government’s improved ability to respond to potential dam safety problems was put to the test in April 2012. During pre-freshet dam assessments, several unlicensed dams were discovered in the Osoyoos area and handled without any major breach or property damage.