The provincial government of British Columbia, Canada has commenced public consultation on the proposed Dam Safety Regulations, under the Water Act. An information package is being mailed to all dam owners in the province.

Announcing the proposed regulations, the Minister of Environment, Lands and Parks, Cathy McGregor, said that floods of the past few years are unfortunate reminders of the potential devastation a dam failure could cause to the public, the environment and the economy. The draft Dam Safety Regulation is designed to ensure that dams in BC are structurally sound, safely operated and properly maintained, she said.

There are approximately 2600 dams in BC, out of which 165 are considered major dams, being over 9m height. The proposed dam safety regulations are meant to protect the people and developments downstream of these dams. The draft dam safety regulation, proposed under the Water Act, is one of the major recommendations of the Dam Safety Renewal Project, which started in 1996. The regulation will re-emphasise the ongoing public safety requirements for dam owners and clarify the responsibilities of government and dam owners for dam inspection and monitoring.

Under the act, dam owners are already held legally responsible to ensure their dams are structurally sound and properly maintained. The regulation will include provisions which will require dam owners to regularly inspect and report on their structures, and when required to provide documentation on operation and maintenance procedures and emergency planning. If a dam is found to be deficient, the regulation will require the submission of documentation including a dam safety review or expert opinion on the dam’s condition. The regulation will require all dam remediation plans to be approved by the Ministry of Environment.

Environment Ministry water management programme staff will monitor the dams to minimise the risk associated with these structures. The ministry will also assist dam owners by providing safety information, education, training materials and feedback to facilitate evaluation of the condition and performance of their dams.