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Local News

April 12, 2013

Schumer: Dams have potential for disaster

COOPERSTOWN — Hundreds of “high hazard” dams across upstate New York lack emergency action plans and there could be a significant loss of life and destruction of property if they fail, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, warned Thursday.

“We’ve learned the hard way that when it comes to safety we can’t cut corners,” Schumer told reporters in a conference call.

He pointed out that more than 30 New York dams were damaged during Hurricane Irene in 2011. Four of the dam failures then were in Greene County, he noted.

Citing statistics from the National Inventory of Dams, Schumer said New York has a total of 1,141 dams that are considered high or significant hazards if they failed. And of those, he added, nearly 75 lack emergency action plans that are intended to map out what steps should be taken to protect life and property should they breach.

According to data provided by Schumer’s staff, Otsego County has three dams in the “high” hazard category, while Delaware and Schoharie each has seven such dams. Chenango County has eight dams classified as high hazard.

One of the most significant and well-known dams in the region is the Gilboa Dam in Schoharie County. Owned by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, the Gilboa Dam’s reservoir crested at 1131.4 feet during Hurricane Irene, 1.4 feet over its 1,300 foot spillway, according to the state DEC.

The Gilboa Dam does have an emergency action plan, which was activated during Hurricane Irene, according to the DEC.

“As our weather patterns become more extreme and our nation’s dams and other infrastructure continue to age, it’s the federal government’s job to invest in upgrades to our dams to make these structures safer and more reliable,” Schumer said.

Some of the dams in question are owned by municipalities or the state, he said, while others are privately owned.

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