News From Senator Joyce

For Immediate Release:      Further Information:

March 1, 2002        Marie Blanchard (617) 722-1643 

Senator Joyce’s dam safety bill moves forward  

Senator Brian A. Joyce is please to announce that the Senate has passed legislation that he co-sponsored addressing the issue of dam safety across the Commonwealth. Both the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and Senator Joyce believe the legislation will significantly enhance the DEM’s efforts to maintain the highest safety standards for dams in Massachusetts. 

Under the proposed legislation, dam owners would be required to make regular safety inspections and report the findings to the DEM. Failure to file a safety report would allow the DEM to inspect a dam. The legislation also states that if a dam is found unsafe, DEM may take emergency action to return the dam to a stable condition or order the owner to take immediate corrective action.

“A number of dams in the Commonwealth may be unsound and pose a threat to public safety,” said Senator Joyce. “In many places throughout the Commonwealth, if a dam were to break, the town center would be flooded and severely damaged. By enabling the DEM Commissioner to order corrective action when a dam is determined to be unsafe we will greatly improve safety.” 

Should the legislation become law, DEM will be given the authority to charge fines for violations of any dam statute or regulations and may recoup from the owner any costs incurred in repairing or inspecting a dam. Monies collected from these fines would be deposited into a dam safety fund with a maximum of $500,000 per year allocated to DEM for dam safety. The DEM estimates that it will deposit $320,000 into the Dam Safety Trust Fund in the first year. 

The legislation will have no cost to the Commonwealth and may in fact reduce administrative costs to the DEM by transferring the responsibility for inspecting dams throughout the Commonwealth from the DEM to dam owners. The bill now goes to the House for final approval.