DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES
PETER T. YOUNG, CHAIRPERSON
Phone: (808) 587-0401
Fax: (808) 587-0390
For Immediate Release:
National Dam Inspection Act
The National Dam Inspection Act, Public Law 92-367 authorized the Army Corps of Engineers to inventory and inspect dams in the U.S. This act was Congress's response to a string of dam failures in the country.
Here in Hawaii the Army Corps of Engineers compiled an inventory of dams identifying a one-page description of critical features.
Between 1979-1981, after several more dam failures, additional funding for this Act was provided and the Army Corps of Engineers did more detailed investigations of the dam structures that were classified as having a high downstream hazard potential. Various local consulting firms assisted in this inspection effort and approximately 60 dams were inspected.
Hawaii's Dam Safety Program Budget and Staffing
In June of 1987, the Hawaii Dam Safety Act was passed and HRS 179D was adopted, identifying DLNR as the lead agency. Two years later in 1989 Administrative Rules chapter 190 was drafted.
The Administrative Rules authorized the Board of Land and Natural Resources
to inspect and require reports, require written approval for new dam
construction and alterations (permits), require emergency action plans
for high hazard dams, be authorized to enter private property, require
maintenance and repairs as required.
In 1999 DLNR lost the operational budget to contract out dam inspections and therefore initiated in-house inspections. A schedule was set up based partially on the National Dam Safety Model Dam Safety Program recommendations and the resources available within the program.
Since that time the program has suffered additional state funding reductions and had to rely on Federal Grants to sustain the expenditures within the program. The inventory was last updated in 2002 with minor updates beyond that.
The Engineering Division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) administers the Hawaii Dam Safety Program. Referred to as the Hawaii Dam Safety Act of 1987, it was part of a National Dam Safety movement that began as a result of several large dam failures in the mainland US during the mid-1900s.
Hawaii’s program budget is approximately $164,000 (all but $2,000 is for salary). In the late-1990s, three positions (Program Engineer, one draftsman, one Senior Engineer) were established to deal with Dam Safety and Flood Control.
The staff activities are evenly divided between these two programs: Dam Safety and Flood Control; meaning, the Dam Safety Program has the equivalent of approximately 1.5 FTE.
At the end of June 2005, the Program Engineer retired and the Senior Engineer assumed a temporary assignment as Program Engineer. Since the middle of 2005, the Dam Safety and Flood Control section has had one engineer.
No dam inspections were made during 2005 and early 2006 by DLNR. We have requested inspection, maintenance and operations information from all dam owners, so that we make sure that we have a complete record of these activities.
Rules require dam owners to provide for the adequate and timely maintenance, operation, and inspection of their dams and reservoirs and owners shall be responsible for any engineering and geologic investigations which may be required to insure public safety.
While Dam Safety and Flood Control activities continued, attention was diverted to tsunami mapping for State Civil Defense and dealing with response to the Manoa floods.
Presently, there is a permanent Program Engineer in place and recruitment for the Senior Engineer position has finalized and the offer to fill the position should be completed soon.
DLNR’s Dam Safety Program conducts visual inspections of dams and notifies owners of repairs needed, permit required, and will review plans for repairs.
The State Dam Safety Program does not do the construction or repairs to dams; Dam owners are responsible for repairs of their dams.
DLNR presents periodic dam safety workshops to address some of the operational and maintenance challenges and concerns of owners and operators of dams and reservoirs here in Hawaii.
The last round of workshops was conducted on Oahu, Kauai and Maui in 2002. Among the topics discussed was "various ways embankment dams typically fail" and "symptoms and initial signs of a possible dam failure."
Dam Installation/Modification Permit Process:
Most of the dams in Hawaii were constructed prior to any dam safety regulations being promulgated.
A Dam permit is only required if owners alter, enlarge, remove, construct or improve the dam structure or appurtenant features.
Typically, when someone alters a dam they get a County Building Permit, a Dam Construction/ Alteration Permit, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permitting Program (NPDES) Permit and possibly a Commission on Water Resource Management (CWRM) Stream Channel Alteration Permit. Permitting for dams requires County, State and Federal permits.
Only dams of a certain size (height and volume) criteria are regulated under the Hawaii program. Generally, regulated dams have a dam height over 25 feet and impound more than 5 million gallons of water (Some exceptions apply).
Dam owners must operate and maintain their dams in a safe manner to
ensure its continued service and integrity as well as reducing the risk
to public safety and the environment.