Governor Northam designates May 31 as ‘Dam Safety Awareness Day’


RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation announced in a release on Thursday that Governor Ralph Northam has declared May 31 as Dam Safety Awareness Day throughout the Commonwealth.

The goal of designating this day in Virginia is to raise dam awareness by helping the community know and understand the flood risk associated with failures and how to proactively increase safety.

The governor’s proclamation comes a week after the dam breaches in Michigan forced thousands to evacuate after “catastrophic dam failures” and record water levels were reported.

“Even in these challenging times, we must remain vigilant to threats like flooding and extreme weather,” Northam said. “Dam failures can be catastrophic, and the breaches we saw in Michigan last week should be a warning call. I urge all Virginians to be aware of dams in their communities, learn about dam safety, and take steps to help preserve this vital infrastructure.”

Dam failure can be the result of many things including overflowing, construction flaws, or structural failure of materials used.

“The mass evacuations associated with a dam breach in Michigan last week serve as a sobering reminder of how much work we have to do in our country and our Commonwealth to improve dam safety.” Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler said.

He continued, “Preventing flooding from dam failures is essential to our public safety, public health, and economic wellbeing, especially during a time when first responders are stretched thin, and all of us are attempting to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

The Association of State Dam Safety Officials predicted that seven in 10 dams will be 50 years or older by 2025 and aging dams are more likely to present problems.

As for the Commonwealth, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation reportedly manages over 2,000 dams, many of which are privately owned.

Over the past year, DCR Dam Safety engineers approved over 100 Operation and Maintenance Certificate applications and permits to ensure the safe and proper construction, operation, repair, and maintenance of dams.

The crew also inspected over 70 damns, approved 30 emergency action plans, and engaged in 24 emergency exercises or drills.

Read the full text of the proclamation. 

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