Top 4 traits of successful Owners Dam Safety Programs

Posted in: Energy, Water


dam surrounded by crisp blue water and blue skyHave you completed an Owners Dam Safety Program (ODSP) audit? What did you learn? Having completed audits on projects around the country, I recently chaired a panel discussion on the topic and learned a lot. It’s clear that there are common traits shared among really good ODSPs.

The top 4 features I find in the best ODSPs are:

1. Safety > generation
The idea that safety is more important than power generation is embedded in the culture of successful organizations. Not to be taken lightly, this philosophy drives top-to-bottom buy-in from everyone responsible for dam safety.

2. Communication is key
The safest dam safety organizations are the ones that value free and open communication lines. Everyone is encouraged to speak up about any issues, and management acts to alleviate concerns rather than just talking about them.

3. Senior management has dam safety training / involvement
Involving senior management in dam safety goes beyond reading reports. Dams are safer when senior management possess a deeper understanding of what it takes to safely operate and maintain a project within the FERC compliance system. This involvement also means decision makers are more engaged in dam safety when the time comes for setting budgets.

4. Succession planning is not overlooked
The best programs are constantly training the next person in line so that s/he will be prepared and ready to go when called upon. Relying on only one person creates unnecessary risk.

Overall, if your organization has a proactive dam safety program with good communication up and down the ranks, you’ll do well. If your ODSP is used as a compliance program, you should rethink the risks you are taking and revise your plan to minimize them.


Carson Mettel, PE

About the Author

Carson Mettel, P.E., is Mead & Hunt’s National Market Leader for Dams and Hydropower and the Vice-Chair of the National Hydropower Association’s Small Hydro Council. He has 35+ years of experience working with water resources, dams and hydro power projects. In his hours away from work, Carson is a pie connoisseur and enjoys biking, two interests that definitely complement each other.

Read more posts by Carson Mettel, PE

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