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Oregon House OKs 'high-hazard' dam safety bill

Would require emergency plans, inspections, drills

SALEM, Ore. - The Oregon House has approved a bill that would provide greater safety measures for dams in the state that are considered “high-hazard.” The legislation, sponsored by Representative Rick Lewis (R-Silverton), requires owners and operators of state-regulated Oregon dams that are “high-hazard” to develop an emergency action plan, with periodic plan review and updates.

“This legislation is an important step forward in ascertaining the safety of Oregon residents who reside within proximity of a high-hazard dam. Any time we can give Oregonians greater safety and peace of mind, it is a win.” Rep. Lewis said.

The bill requires that a copy of the emergency action plan be provided to the Oregon Water Resources Department, the Office of Emergency Management, and the Emergency Management Organization in the county in which the dam is located.

Under current law, existing high-hazard dams are encouraged but not required to have a plan. Under HB 3247, inspections and emergency response exercises on high-hazard dams would be required annually or on a basis otherwise determined by the Oregon Water Resources Department.

According to the Oregon Water Resources Department, there are currently 75 high-hazard dams in Oregon. At present, 58 of those structures have emergency action plans and 13 have early warning systems.

“It is important to note that a high hazard designation does not mean a dam is unsafe,” Lewis said. “It does, however, mean that there is a potential loss of life, if the dam were to experience a catastrophic failure. For that reason, it is crucial that these dams receive special attention.”

The bill received unanimous support Wednesday from the Oregon House. The bill now moves to the Senate for further consideration.


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