According to state officials, the lack of updated emergency plans, could cause over 40 dams to fail and cause major destruction and deaths. Last week, Governor Larry Hogan signed into law a new bill that would require owners of those dams, private businesses, counties and municipalities to prepare for such an emergency.
Under the law, the state will have legal authority to make all dam owners to update or write procedures to promptly alert residents and first responders of safety risks, in the event a dam breach is anticipated or already occurred.
In 2016, the Maryland Department of the Environment stated that its dam inspection division was struggling to keep up with routine evaluations. However, just last week the division’s leader said it was maintaining a steady pace with all inspection demands this year.
A February incident that involved the failure of an earthen dam in Oroville, California, which lead to the evacuation of tens of thousands of people has pushed dam failures into the headlines.
Maryland has roughly 500 dams, but none of them are as hazardous or large as the Oroville Dam. According to state inspectors, over 200 of the damns pose consequential hazards to major highways, human life and homes.
These threats are not due to the condition of the dams, but their location. The dams are in proximity of busy arteries and residential neighborhoods.
Out of the 200 dams, 42 are lacking updated emergency plans. In fact, some of the emergency plans have not been updated in the past three years.
The Baltimore Sun reached out to several damn owners, whom said they understand the significance of the emergency plans and are currently working to update them.
“I didn’t know they were actively enforcing these plans,” said David Jarrell public works director for the City of Annapolis. “It’s good to hear that they are.”
The dams that are being singled out include the structures at Annapolis Reservoir and Lake Waterford in Anne Arundel County; Greenspring Quarry in Baltimore County; several Hampstead stormwater ponds, retention pond at TownMall of Westminister and Cascade Lake in Carroll County; and on the property of a gravel and stone business in Howard County.
The dam owners have until August 1 to update their plans.