Herron wants inspections of state’s hazardous dams
Posted: Wednesday, May 19, 2010 9:02 pm
JACKSON (AP) — State Sen. Roy Herron wants authorities to begin inspecting dams that are considered “high hazard” but currently exempt from inspection.
The Jackson Sun reports dams are given the high hazard rating when people are likely to die if they fail.
Many of those dams qualify for something called a farm pond exemption, although a “farm pond” can be any size or hazard category. The exemption was written into the 1973 Tennessee Safe Dams Act after the Farm Bureau lobbied for it. Tennessee is the only state in the country with the exemption.
There are 70 high-hazard dams across the state that are exempt from inspection: eight in West Tennessee, 49 in Middle Tennessee and 13 in East Tennessee. All told, Tennessee has more than 500 dams of different hazard categories that are exempt from regulation.
Herron, D-Dresden, said he met Monday with representatives from the Tennessee Farm Bureau, the state’s Safe Dams Program and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
“I asked the department to seek permission to inspect all high-hazard dams for safety as soon as possible,” Herron said. “I asked the Farm Bureau to ask its members to cooperate.”
Herron said he wants to change the law and to require all high-hazard dams to be inspected annually.
“I’ve not given up on legislation during this session, but, realistically, time is running short because the session could end next week,” Herron said.
Tennessee has only four dam inspectors, so Herron has asked the Safe Dams Program to consider temporarily inspecting low-hazard dams every four years instead of every three years, as it does now. Low-hazard dams are expected to have little or no effect downstream if they fail.
Dams designated as “significant hazard” are likely to cause property damage or temporary loss of roads or utilities if they fail, with a remote chance of loss of life. Those dams are inspected every two years.
Herron’s call for inspections comes after an investigation by The Jackson Sun that drew attention to the farm pond exemption and other issues with dam inspections.
Information from: The Jackson Sun, http://www.jacksonsun.com
Published in The Messenger 5.19.10