FERC orders dam owners to submit Owners Dam Safety Program reports

WASHINGTON 5/18/12 PennWell) -- In a significant expansion of its Owners Dam Safety Program, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is ordering owners of high- and significant-hazard dams to submit ODSP safety reports for their structures.

Spurred by the 2005 failure of the upper dam of the 408-MW Taum Sauk Pumped-Storage project (No. 2277) in Missouri, FERC developed a self-assessment tool so dam owners could review the effectiveness of their dam safety programs. Previously, FERC required ODSP filings case by case.

In a new initiative, FERC sent letters in May announcing that all owners of high- and significant-hazard dams under FERC jurisdiction must submit within 30 days a plan and schedule to file individual Owners Dam Safety Programs. The letter, from Director William Allerton of FERC's division of Dam Safety and Inspections, said dam owners should plan to submit their actual ODSP documents within six months.

"A dam safety program that is well documented and is kept current through annual reviews sends a message to all affected parties both within and outside your organization that dam safety is important," Allerton wrote. "Recognizing that each organization is unique, your ODSP should be specifically tailored to your particular situation considering your portfolio of dams, dam types, and the associated life safety and financial risks."

FERC said basic principles of a good dam safety program include:
o acknowledgment of dam safety responsibilities;
o communication
o clear designation of responsibility;
o allocation of resources to dam safety; and
o learning organization.

The letter included an outline of items to be included in each Owners Dam Safety Program filing.

Copies of the letter, outline, and other information on the Owners Dam Safety Program may be obtained from the FERC Internet site under http://www.ferc.gov/industries/hydropower/safety/initiatives/odsp.asp.

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