National Dam Safety Awareness Day occurs on May 31 of each year to commemorate the failure of the South Fork Dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1889. The dam failure resulted in the loss of more than 2,200 lives and is the worst dam failure in terms of fatalities in the history of the United States.
National Dam Safety Awareness Day was created to encourage and promote individual and community responsibility for dam safety, as well as to provide information on what steps can be taken to prevent future catastrophic dam failures. A secondary goal is to promote the benefits dams offer to communities.
For 30 years, the federal government has been working to protect Americans from dam failure through the National Dam Safety Program (NDSP). The NDSP, which is led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is a partnership of the states, federal agencies, and other stakeholders to encourage individual and community responsibility for dam safety.
While Kingsley Dam, which impounds the largest reservoir in Nebraska, is the primary focus of Central’s dam safety efforts, Central also has prepared emergency action plans for dams impounding Jeffrey Lake and Johnson Lake.
The possibility that Kingsley Dam (or Jeffrey or Johnson dam) will fail is extremely remote, but Central would like the public to know that it is prepared in the event of an emergency that threatens the integrity of its dams.
Central updates and revises each of its emergency action plans (EAP) annually and distributes the revised plan to a designated list of local, state and federal entities. The purpose of the EAPs is to provide maximum early warning to all persons downstream of the dam involved in the unlikely event of a failure (catastrophic or otherwise) of the structure. In addition to providing early warning, Central’s objective is to minimize or eliminate danger to people and property downstream.
EAPs contain information pertaining to how potential conditions that could cause or signify an emergency situation and steps to follow to evaluate those conditions. Such conditions include inordinately high flows, adverse weather conditions, and any situations discovered during routine inspections of the structures.
Central’s dams are inspected regularly by well-trained employees, annually by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) personnel, and at five-year intervals by independent engineering consultants. Central also conducts functional exercises of the EAPs every five years – as required by the FERC — that involve representatives from the numerous agencies that would be involved. A functional exercise for Kingsley Dam is scheduled to take place at Central’s Gothenburg Division headquarters on June 10.
So you can rest easy tonight knowing that you probably don’t have to worry about failure of one of Central’s dams, but also that plans are in place to respond to such a calamity … just in case.
Visit http://engineeringstrongersafer.net/ for more information on National Dam Safety Awareness Day.
Additional information on national dam safety is available at: www.fema.gov/protecting-our-communities/dam-safety