A group that monitors the health of the nation’s rivers is raising concern about West Virginia’s dams, but the manager of the state’s dam safety program says improvements have been made in recent years to protect downstream residents.
The Washington, D.C.-based American Rivers said that 30 dams in West Virginia are deemed deficient and represent a threat to residents and property downstream. The list was compiled by the Association of State Dam Safety officials using 2006 statistics.
“Is that good? No,” said American Rivers spokesman Garrett Russo. “One isn’t good, but there are states like Georgia and Ohio that are in triple digits.”
Georgia has 156 and Ohio 170 high hazard dams, according to the association’s list.
West Virginia last ranked the number of deficient dams in 2004, said Brian Long, manager of the Department of Environmental Protection’s Dam Safety Program.
In 2004, 38 out of the 350 dams under the program’s jurisdiction made the deficient list. None of the dams are coal-related.
To make the list, a dam has to have one or more problems that could lead it to fail during a heavy rain. Since 2004, the office has worked to remove six from the list and is working on a seventh, Long said.
Dams, however, will stay on the list until they are either removed or repaired.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers took a step toward making money available for dam repairs by creating a revolving loan fund, but didn’t allocate any money for the program.
Congress is considering legislation that would provide $200 million for dam repairs. Russo said West Virginia’s congressional delegation should be encourage to co-sponsor the Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act.
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