$360M needed for locally-owned dams, comptroller says

Jake Lahut

Daily Gazette

Jun 15, 2018

A report issued Thursday by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli estimated that about $360 million will be required to fix locally-owned dams across the state.

While no dams in New York are rated "unsafe," more than half are rated as either "unsound" or "deficiently maintained," according to the report.

According to the comptroller's report, "Dams considered 'unsound' may have seepage problems, structural stability inadequacies or seriously inadequate spillway capacity. Dams rated as 'deficiently maintained' are in need of corrective action, often in the form of increased maintenance, to correct the condition of the dam."

Approximately 400 of the state's 1,000 intermediate- and high-hazard dams -- a measure of the scope of damage that would result in their failure, not a measure of how likely they are to fail -- are locally owned.

DiNapoli laid out the myriad risks and costs of dams in need of repair in a prepared statement Thursday.

“The deadly and destructive consequences of flooding in New York are clear,” DiNapoli said. “As with the impact of severe storms, the breach of a large dam could result in the loss of life, devastation of several communities and flooding that spans multiple counties. Even a small dam failure could result in significant economic consequences for residents, municipalities and the state.

"With increased danger due to aging infrastructure, weather events triggered by global warming and the threat of cyberattacks, effective prioritization of funding and better oversight of critical capital assets is essential.”

The report also suggests the $360 million estimate could be low, given that the 2015 reconstruction of the Gilboa Dam in Schoharie County, which is not a locally owned dam, cost $138 million alone.

DiNapoli urged local officials in the report to get emergency action plans and annual certifications up to date, include dams in capital asset planning, and raise awareness about how damaged dams can affect local residents.