Emergency plans coming for "high hazard" Louisville dams - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Emergency plans coming for "high hazard" Louisville dams

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Jefferson County dams that pose the biggest threat if they fail are set to have emergency plans in place by the end of the year, the Metropolitan Sewer District said in a report issued this week.

Kentucky doesn't require the plans – documents that typically include evacuation maps and key information for first responders – but the National Dam Safety Board “strongly recommends” dam owners prepare them.

MSD, the Kentucky Division of Water and Metro Parks are working on the emergency action plans, or EAPs, which are part of the sewer district's long-term strategy to address hazards related to dam failures and involve funding from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The 10 “high-hazard potential” dams in Louisville aren't necessarily unsafe, but regulators believe a failure would likely lead to property damage and loss of life. A group that includes MSD, Metro Parks and private dam owners concluded in the report that no dams “within Louisville Metro have been found to be unsafe.”

In all, four of the dams have EAPs, according to Division of Water documents obtained under a public records request earlier this year. Those include an LG&E coal ash dam at the company's Mill Creek generating station in southwestern Louisville.

The dams lacking EAPs include three privately-owned structures, two Metro Parks dams at Jefferson Memorial Forest and one MSD dam, according to the state records.

Tony Marconi, MSD's interim director of flood protection and drainage, said officials have worked for months updating an emergency plan for the district's Roberson Run dry impoundment in southern Jefferson County.

“If it's not completed, it's close,” Marconi said.

While the Metro Parks' dams at Jefferson Memorial Forest don't yet have EAPs, those impoundments are inspected about once every two months for excess tree growth and seepage, said Jason Canuel, assistant director of park resources and capital construction.

Engineering associations in Kentucky and Indiana both have called for more EAPs. In a 2011 report card on Kentucky's infrastructure, the state's American Society of Civil Engineers section recommended the plans be in place for all high-hazard dams.

Despite no law or regulation governing EAPs, the plans may be beneficial for Kentucky dam owners. Marilyn Thomas, an inspector in the Division of Water's dam safety and floodplain compliance office, said the plans count toward Louisville's participation in a federal floodplain management program that can result in lower flood insurance premiums.

“We would like for them to do this,” she said.

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Reporter Marcus Green can be reached at (502) 585-0825 or on Twitter @MarcusGreenWDRB.

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