Kentucky part of federal program to add emergency plans for dams - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Kentucky part of federal program to add emergency plans for dams

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A federally-funded program aims to increase the number of emergency plans for potentially deadly dams in Kentucky.

The state Division of Water will work with a Missouri-based consultant to educate dam owners about the benefits of the plans that provide evacuation maps and other information that may be critical in the event of a catastrophe. Kentucky is not among more than 20 states requiring them.

As WDRB.com reported last year, emergency action plans are lagging for Kentucky's high-hazard potential dams. Such impoundments – from coal slurry dams to privately-owned lakes – aren't necessarily unsafe, but regulators believe property damage and loss of life are likely during a failure.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency-backed outreach program is geared toward adding more plans for the dams overseen by the Division of Water. (The Department of Natural Resources regulates coal-industry dams, while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Tennessee Valley Authority have jurisdiction over federal structures like Wolf Creek Dam at Lake Cumberland.)

In all, only 8 percent of the Division of Water's high-hazard dams (14 of 179) had emergency action plans as of last November, according to documents obtained under the Kentucky Open Records Act. Updated state records now show that 63 percent of those dams have plans in place, according to FEMA's contractor.

"The overall objective is to get all of the high-hazard potential dams to have emergency action plans," said Ron Butler, executive vice president of Creative Communications Network of Liberty, Mo. FEMA awarded the company a $294,000 contract last September. 

The National Dam Safety Review Board "strongly recommends" states require the plans. It also suggests that owners of high-hazard dams prepare them regardless of state laws or regulations.

Butler said his company will work with the Division of Water as part of the "outreach and information campaign," which now includes seven states. Information about the program is at www.damsafetyaction.org.

Previous WDRB.com stories:

Emergency plans lagging for high-hazard dams in Kentucky, Indiana

Kentucky’s push to upgrade dams lacks enforcement plan

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