BOSTON, MA – Representative William C. Galvin (D-Canton) is pleased to announce the passage of H4557, of An Act Further Regulating Dam Safety, Repair and Removal. Governor Deval Patrick signed the bill into law on Thursday. This legislation will make it easier to repair or remove unsafe dams by providing funding and enhanced reporting and enforcement authority. This precedent-setting law was created over several years with a unique coalition of municipalities, engineers, conservation organizations, and legislative officials.
“I supported this bill because Canton has a significant number of dams, some of which are deteriorating. Massachusetts has some beautiful old dams, but many are in dire need of replacement or removal in instances where they are harming aquatic life. I am glad the Governor has responded to this need by signing this legislation into law,” stated Representative Galvin.
There are approximately 2,892 dams in Massachusetts, many of which are in poor condition and hazardous locations, which pose a threat to public safety. Many dams serve valuable public services such as flood control, hydropower and water supply and many more are in need of repair.
However, approximately 85% of the state’s dams no longer serve their original purpose. Where appropriate, removing unsafe and obsolete dams permanently rids their owners of liability, insurance and maintenance costs, reduces risks to public safety from flooding, and enables freshwater animals and plants to thrive.
“This new legislation will help communities improve the ecological health of our coasts and rivers and the safety and economic vitality of our communities,” said Steve Long, Director of Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts.
"This important new law will help cities and towns restore rivers and streams to their natural condition while removing safety hazards in our communities," said Linda Orel, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions.
"Dams damage water quality, create barriers for wildlife and paddlers, and turn free-flowing rivers into lakes,” said Julia Blatt, Executive Director of the Mass Rivers Alliance. “The Mass Rivers Alliance strongly supports the restoration of the Commonwealth's rivers through removal of unsafe and obsolete dams, and was pleased to be part of the unusual coalition that came together to support this legislation. Passage of this bill was a win for everyone,” she said.
DAM SAFETY FACTS:
- Of approximately 3,000 dams in Massachusetts, 43 are flood control dams, 44 are hydro-power dams and 164 are water supply dams. Most of the remaining dams are "run of the river" dams that were used to power mills during the Industrial Revolution and are no longer in use. The largest concentration of dams in the United States is in Worcester County.
- According to a report released by the Office of the State Auditor in January 2011, 100 dams owned by 62 municipalities in Massachusetts are rated in unsafe or poor condition.
KEY PROVISIONS IN THE LEGISLATION:
The bill would better enable the repair and removal of dams by:
- Creating a separate $17 million state revolving loan fund and grants by transferring finds from a defunct trust; which prioritizes funding for dams that have been classified as unsafe.
- Authorizing municipalities to issue bonds to fund the removal or repair of unsafe dams and coastal infrastructure;
- Enhancing the authority of the Office of Dam Safety, by increasing the fines for allowing dams to become hazardous.