Dam safety regulations in California: What’s new?

Posted in: Energy, Infrastructure, Water


Shasta Dam in California (Photo credit: User ‘Apaliwal’ on Wikimedia Commons)

In the aftermath of the near-disaster at Oroville Dam in California in February 2017, there have been numerous discussions in dam safety and policy circles about regulations to make dams safer. At Mead & Hunt, we have been keenly following policy developments related to dam safety, and this post provides an update from California.

On June 27, 2017, significant legislative changes related to dam safety were adopted by California through the passing of Senate Bill 92 (SB 92, part of the 2017-18 budget package). The bill requires the following changes which will affect dam owners:

Inundation Maps

Under prior law, inundation maps were to be submitted by dam owners to California Office of Emergency Services for review and approval. SB 92 brings inundation maps under jurisdiction of the Department of Water Resources. Further, all inundation maps are now required to be publicly available.

Emergency Action Plans

Dam owners are now required, after approval of inundation maps, to prepare an emergency action plan, with an exception for low-hazard dams. Before SB 92, the state did not have the power to compel dam owners to create EAPs. SB 92 requires EAPs and inundation maps to be updated no less frequently than 10 years or when significant changes occur at the dam or downstream.

Once the EAP is approved, dam owners must conduct an emergency action plan notification exercise at least once annually with a local public safety agency. While SB 92 requires inundation maps to be publicly available, EAPs will be protected from public disclosure.

Fees and enforcement

Finally, SB 92 will allow DWR to change the fees that are currently charged to dam owners for state supervision related to dam safety. The new law also provides enforcement authority to the state through imposition of monetary penalties for non-compliance with dam safety laws.

Mead & Hunt will continue to support dam owners in California to operate their dams safely and maintain compliance with the post-Oroville laws. If you have any questions about the safety of your dam, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Rahul Ranade

About the Author

Rahul Ranade addresses water infrastructure challenges today with a keen eye on the future. This helps water agencies stay a step ahead of ever-evolving demands on their systems. “The sense of urgency and public importance attached to water projects makes working on them a rewarding experience,” says Rahul.

Read more posts by Rahul Ranade

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