Safety and Security
Safety and security concerns of old and obsolete dams now and in the future:
In New Jersey, dams are regulated by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Dam Safety & Flood Control, Bureau of Dam Safety. In 1912, the state legislature passed laws relating to the construction, repair, and inspection of existing and proposed dam structures. The law was amended in 1981 and became known as the Safe Dam Act, and in May 1985, the Dam Safety Standards were established.
Structures regulated by Bureau of Dam Safety include all “artificial barriers, together with appurtenant works that raise the waters of a stream more than five feet above the usual mean low water height.” Regulations governing dams in New Jersey are found in N.J.A.C. 7:20 Dam Safety Standards (Statutory authority: N.J.S.A. 58:4-1 et seq. and N.J.S.A. 13:1D-1 et seq.).
The primary goal of the program is to ensure the safety and integrity of dams in New Jersey and, thereby, protect people and property from the consequences of dam failures. Prior to removing a dam, an application must be submitted to the Bureau and the Bureau must issue a Dam Safety permit. Information to be included in this application is outlined in the Dam Safety Standards.
According to the Dam Safety Standards, N.J.A.C. 7:20-2.9 (a), the Bureau of Dam Safety itself may remove a dam under certain circumstances:
Whenever the Commissioner determines that a dam is in imminent danger of failure and has reasonable cause to believe that danger to life or property may be anticipated from the reservoir, dam or appurtenant structures located therein, and the owner of the dam or person having control of the reservoir or dam has failed to comply with an order to repair the dam or to take such interim measures as the Department determines are appropriate, including reducing the amount of water impounded by the dam or breaching the dam, the Department may, in addition to other actions authorized by the Safe Dam Act, this chapter and other law, enter upon any and all properties wherein the reservoir, dam or appurtenant structures are located, and using resources and personnel available to the Department, remove or cause to be removed the dam and/or appurtenant structures located therein, allowing the water to flow freely.
For forms and guidelines, rules and regulations, contact information and other information visit the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Dam Safety & Flood Control, Bureau of Dam Safety website.
Often, the removal of man-made structures seems expensive and impractical. However, several analyses and case studies have shown otherwise.
Dams impact every aspect of healthy rivers including the fishes we like to eat and fish. If we want to keep certain fish species in Europe, like eel, sturgeon, and salmon, we must restore connectivity from sea to source. Not only do fish rely on natural river systems but also many other species living in the water and on land depend on and would benefit from free-flowing rivers.