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Letter: Indiana code on dams needs to be updated

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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of Daily Journal.

Anna Stringer


To the editor:

As a former resident of Franklin, I was very disheartened to hear about the two teenagers who drowned when caught in the submerged hydraulic jump of the low head or in-channel dam in Edinburgh in June.

The statistic across the nation is that a person is four times more likely to drown as a result of interacting with in-channel dams than to be killed due to the failure of a conventional dam. Statewide, seven people since 2007 have died as a result of the overtopping of an in-channel dam. No one has been killed in the reported history of Indiana by a conventional dam failure.

The state of Indiana has a loophole in its dam code compliance that if the dam is less than 20 feet tall or the dam does not fail when it causes death, the dam does not fall under the Department of Natural Resources’ dam safety regulations.

What is further frustrating is that the DNR dam safety program uses a substantial portion of its limited resources to provide inspections and continuing education by professional engineers at subsidized cost to owners of dams that are considered to be low or significant hazard. Meaning the failure of the dam would reportedly only damage a few outbuildings if it failed.

The Indiana code compliance needs to be revamped to include in-channel dams. The owners of low or significant risk dams need to pay all of their own inspection and continuing education costs. And a portion of the monies in the dam safety program need to be used to assist in the removal, remediation or to improve the security around these abandoned in-channel dams.

Please help me get Indiana code 14-27-7.5 revised to include the regulation of in-channel dams by writing the following congressmen:

Sen. Carl Yoder, Senate agriculture and natural resources committee chair, s12@iga.in.gov

Rep. Sean Eberhart, House natural resources committee chair, h57@iga.in.gov.

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