The Dam Safety Program administers the Department’s responsibilities under 10 V.S.A. Chapter 43. The section manages a permit program for construction and alteration of non-hydroelectric dams, conducts dam inspections, and educates dam owners and the public about public safety issues.
Dams that impound more than 500,000 cubic feet of water, sediment or other liquid are regulated by state statute, 10 V.S.A. Chapter 43 and are called jurisdictional dams. Smaller dams may be regulated under other state statutes. Dams may also be subject to federal and local jurisdiction. More information on the regulations and permits related to dams is available on our Regulations and Permits page.
Dams, even small dams for backyard ponds, are significant structures that can have major public safety and environmental implications. As a result, dams are regulated by a variety of federal, state and local laws. Beyond its regulatory authority, the state also has considerable interest in working with dam owners to see that dams are safe by being well maintained and responsibly operated. The information provided is to help dam owners and prospective dam owners to understand the implications of owning, maintaining and operating a dam.
Following the passage of Act 161 - An Act Relating to the Regulation of Dams in 2018, 10 V.S.A. Chapter 43, the State Statute for the regulation of non-power1, non-federal2 dams was amended. The amendments to the statute included the addition of a purpose statement, definition of a “dam,” requirements for developing inspection schedules, hazard classifications, dam inventorying, and dam recording in the land records. In addition, the statute authorizes the Dam Safety Program to develop “Administrative” and “Standard” Dam Safety Rules as follows:
- Administrative Rules to be adopted by July 1, 2020
- Exemptions from Registration and Inspections
- Process for Owner Registration and dams recorded in Land records
- Hazard Classifications
- Inspection Schedule
- Standards Rules to be adopted by July 1, 2022, including:
- Siting, design, construction, alteration
- Operation & Maintenance
- Inspection, monitoring, record keeping, reporting
- Repair, breach or removal
- Application for authorization under 1082
- Emergency Action Plans requirements and guidance
The proposed Dam Safety rule has been pre-filed with the Interagency Committee on Administrative Rules (ICAR). The draft rule can be found HERE. The rule will be presented to ICAR at the Committee’s February 10th meeting. The pre-filing also included responses to public comment received following the Dam Safety Workshop. The comments were received through December 10, 2019 and the responses are available HERE.
Following the ICAR process, the Rule will be filed with the Secretary of State and a public hearing will be scheduled, which will likely be in the late March to April timeframe. There will be published notice once the public hearing date is selected and we will perform outreach as was done for the recent Dam Safety Workshop. Stay Tuned!
Please stay tuned as these rules enter the formal rulemaking process through the legislature in early 2020.
The Dam Safety Program, with the assistance of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials held a Dam Safety Workshop on November 5, 2019. At the Workshop, the pre-file rules (posted above) were presented and discussed. In addition, other important dam safety topics were presented including dam failure modes, operation and maintenance of dams, Emergency Action Plans, and dam construction of repairs or removal.
The PowerPoint slides from the workshop can be viewed by clicking on each of the following sessions:
- Course session 1: Introduction
- Course session 2: State
- Course session 3: Failure Modes
- Course session 4: O&M -edited-
- Course session 5: EAPs -edited-
- Course session 6: Security/Liability
- Course session 7: Costs - Hiring a Consultant
Please contact Chief Dam Safety Engineer Ben Green at email@example.com with any questions, concerns, or comments.
(2) non-federal dams are dams that are not owned by the United States or a dam subject to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license or exemption.
Owners of dams capable of impounding more than 500,000 cubic feet of water are responsible for the payment of the annual fee, based on the hazard class of the dam: low hazard dams $200/year, significant hazard dams $350/year, and high hazard dams $1000/year. To pay your fee, click here to go to our ANR Online site. You will need to register to create an account before you can access the Annual Dam Registration form, please review the instructions for accessing the Annual Dam Registration form.
The decision to acquire and own even a small dam is a major one that will result in long-term legal and financial obligations. A careful investigation of the costs and benefits is imperative so that the prospective owner can make a well-informed decision before acquiring a dam. Some of the factors to consider are found here.
The Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates that $36.2 billion is needed to rehabilitate dams across the nation, based on the current national inventory of non-federally owned dams.
Beaver dams are not within the jurisdiction of the Dam Safety Program. The Agency of Natural Resources has developed a document Best Management Practices for Resolving Human-Beaver Conflicts in Vermont. Beaver dams or beavers on a private landowner's property that are causing damage such as blocking road culverts, spillways or gates on a dam may be removed. The Fish and Wildlife Department will not provide trapping or other removal services for a landowner. However, the local game warden will provide the name of a local trapper who the landowner can contact and make arrangements to have the beaver removed. Destruction of beavers or beaver dams on the property of others without landowner permission is prohibited. For further advice, contact a local game warden.