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Dam Safety FAQ

A dam owner is defined as any person or persons who own, control, maintains, manage, or propose to construct a dam or reservoir, and includes those shown by records of the county registrar of deeds to have some interest, fee, easement, or otherwise, in the land on which the dam and lake lie. This may also include those who may derive a direct pecuniary benefit from the existence of the lake. Dam owners can be private citizens or companies, non-profit organizations, state or local governments, or federal agencies.

The OWRB regulates all Oklahoma dams (together with appurtenant works) that are jurisdictionally sized and non-Federally owned. The OWRB is responsible for enforcing dam safety regulations and aiding the public in understanding these regulations.

As shown in the chart, dams that are considered jurisdictional are those that are or will be 25 feet or more in height, have or will have an impounding capacity of 50 acre-feet, or are determined to have a high hazard potential classification regardless of size.

All dams are classified based on size and hazard potential.

The hazard potential classification of a dam is determined by the downstream risk in the event of a failure without regard to the physical condition of the dam.

Dams assigned a high hazard potential classification are those where failure will probably cause loss of human life, regardless of the supposed likelihood of failure.

The frequency of required dam inspections is determined by the hazard classification.

  1. High hazard potential dams must be inspected at least once annually.
  2. Significant hazard potential dams must be inspected at least once every three years.
  3. Low hazard potential dams must be inspected at least once every five years.

Periodic inspections of high and significant hazard potential dams must be conducted by a Registered Professional Engineer hired by the owner, who is licensed in the state of Oklahoma, and has training and/or experience concerning the analysis, design, and/or construction of dams and reservoirs, or by an engineer of any United States governmental agency acting in his official capacity. Inspections of low hazard classification dams may be conducted by persons who are not Registered Professional Engineers but who are trained in inspecting dams. The OWRB also offers free inspections for low hazard potential dams on a limited basis.

An Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is a formal document that identifies potential emergency conditions at a dam and specifies preplanned actions to be followed to minimize property damage and loss of life in the event of a dam failure. The EAP specifies actions the dam owner should take to moderate or alleviate the problems at the dam. It contains procedures and information to assist the dam owner in issuing an early warning and notification to appropriate emergency management authorities of the emergency situation. It also contains inundation maps to show emergency management authorities critical areas for action in case of an emergency.

Owners of existing or proposed dams classified as high hazard-potential, regardless of the size of such dams, and any other dam as determined by the Board, shall create, and maintain an EAP that utilizes the recommendations, as determined by the Board, of the "Federal Guidelines for Dam Safety, Emergency Action Planning for Dams," published July 2013 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The owner shall submit a copy of the EAP to the Board.

Last Modified on Jul 12, 2023