BOSTON – Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield) announces approval of legislation yesterday by the Massachusetts Senate expanding the authority of the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) Office of Dam Safety.
“This legislation is an effort to address public safety and environmental concerns related to dams in communities across Massachusetts,” noted Downing.
The bill would require DCR, in conjunction with the Department of Fish and Game, to submit an annual report listing the ownership and location of all registered dams in the Commonwealth. The report would also provide information on all dams that are hazardous, abandoned or an environmental threat and all dam owners that have failed to meet dam safety requirements.
To ensure information on hazardous dams are up-to-date, DCR would review the hazard classifications of dams at least every five years and develop Emergency Action Plans for “high hazard” and “significant hazard” dams.
DCR would also establish an inspection schedule to ensure that high hazard dams are inspected every two years, significant hazard dams are inspected every five years and low hazard dams are inspected every 10 years.
For dam owners that fail to comply with dam safety regulations, fines imposed by DCR would increase from $500 to $5000 per violation.
The bill would allow cities and towns to borrow funds, outside of their debt limit, to pay for the costs of acquiring damns within their borders and any removal, repair, reconstruction or improvements to dams.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.