A group urged Alabama to create an inspection program for the hundreds of dams across the state, most of which they say go unregulated.
Association of State Dam Safety Officials project manager Mark Ogden said at a news conference Tuesday that Alabama is the only state without a dam safety program. Dams that produce electricity, as well as those owned by the U.S. government, are regulated and regularly inspected by the federal government. However, Ogden said most dams in Alabama do not fall into that category.
Ogden said the National Inventory of Dams lists almost 200 known high-hazard dams in Alabama where a failure could result in loss of life or significant property damage. He said only 19 percent of those have been inspected within the last five years.
However, Ogden said the number of high-hazard dams could be higher because of a lack of good information.
“It’s old. It’s out of date. It’s largely unknown,” Ogden said.
Tom Woosley, manager of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Safe Dams Program, said that state created its program after a 1977 dam failure flooded a Bible college and killed 39 people.
Woosley said the 42-foot earthen dam dated to 1899 and had been added to through the years.
Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs, introduced a bill in the last session of the Alabama Legislature, but it did not get out of committee.
The state would inspect dams that are 25-feet tall or higher or those that hold back 50 acres of water, under the legislative proposal.
McClurkin, who is retiring from the Alabama Legislature, said she hopes another lawmaker pushes the idea in the 2015 session.
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