Many dams don’t have contingency plans in place if they fail, state officials say

Hundreds of North Carolina dams have no contingency plan if they fail.

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Built to control flooding and store water, Beam Road Dam in West Charlotte is one of more than 6,100 dams in North Carolina.

North Carolina’s dam safety program classifies the dam, which is near roads downstream, as high risk.

The state Department of Environmental Quality sent a letter to the dam’s owner in June, saying property could be damaged and people could die if the dam fails.

The effects of a dam failure can be devastating.

Heavy rains in South Carolina in 2015 caused 50 state and federally regulated dams to rupture or fail.

The widespread flooding killed 19 people in the Carolinas and caused hundreds of road closures.

DEQ officials said the Beam Road Dam is one of more than 1,500 high-risk dams in North Carolina.

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“It’s also growing pretty fast in North Carolina,” said Josh Colley, a dam safety engineer at DEQ. “So this can lead to a problem that we call hazard creep, where developments occur downstream of dams that were not foreseen when that dam was designed and built.”

State inspectors surveyed the Beam Road Dam in January and found it to be in poor condition.

The owner has never created a contingency plan in case the dam fails, according to DEQ.

“The Dam Safety Act requires all high and medium risk dams to have an EAP,” Colley said.

The cost of creating an EAP can range from $10,000 to $25,000, he said.

He believes that’s why some dam owners don’t prepare one.

The state’s inventory shows that 1,093 dams, representing about one-sixth of the dams in the state, do not have an EAP.

DEQ can issue a “Defect Notice” and fine owners up to $500 per day.

“We have issued notices, notices of deficiencies and dam safety orders where warranted,” Colley said. “We take this seriously.”

Channel 9’s Erika Jackson asked the state how many times the DEQ had subpoenaed dam owners for not having an EAP.

A spokesman said the state has not imposed any fines or subpoenas on dam owners for violating the EAP Act.

The spokesman also said the Beam Road Dam is not under a shortage notice either.

The spokesman added the state is more focused on helping dam owners create a plan.

“If they are not in good condition, we notify owners and help ensure they take corrective action to bring these dams into good condition,” Colley said.

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