Brown’s bill to bail out dam owners clears resource and energy committee

Brown’s bill to bail out dam owners clears resource and energy committee.  

Legislation to create financial accountability among private dam owners, which is supported by State Rep. Rosemary Brown (R-Monroe/Pike), was recently approved by the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

House Bill 1712 — The Private Dam Financial Assurance Act — provides for protection in case of necessary breach events. When a dam is breached, the cost averages $170,000, so the bill would obligate owners to have financial protection in place as a preventative measure.

“I have been working with private dam owners and the Department of Environmental Protection to help private dam owners meet the Jan. 2016 requirement,” Brown said. “That’s what this bill is all about.”

Dams fall into an unusual category regarding monetary protection because the financial status of private owners tends to be affiliated with homeowners’ associations, which are not widely considered stable enough to warrant bonds.

“I have received a lot of input from dam owners across the state … unable to obtain these bonds,” Brown said. “This bill would establish the Financial Assurance Program … for the private owners of regulated dams in order to meet the financial obligations imposed under the Dam Safety and Encroachment Act.”

Under the self-funded initiative, dam owners would pay a one-time $1,000 registration fee and a regular annual fee in the amount of one percent of the bond amount. Additionally, when the fund reaches $1.5 million, repair loans can be authorized.

Of the commonwealth’s 3,378 regulated dams, close to 404 — approximately one eighth — are privately owned, either by state or municipal jurisdictions, mining companies or private citizens.

HB 1712 now goes to the House for consideration.

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