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Governor Signs Dam and Seawall Repair Loan Program Into Law

Type:  Announcements  

 

Massachusetts Legislature Passes Dam and Seawall Repair Loan Program; Governor Signs Bill Into Law

 

Text of bill approved:

  http://www.mass.gov/legis/journal/desktop/Current%20Agenda%202011/H4557.pdf


On January 10, 2013, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a bill that would make it easier to repair or remove unsafe dams and coastal infrastructure by providing funding and enhanced reporting and enforcement authority, An Act Further Regulating Dam Safety, Repair and Removal (H.4557).


On December 31, 2012, the Massachusetts House and the Massachusetts Senate gave final approval to this bill creating a loan and grant program to facilitate the repair or removal of unneeded dams and help finance repairs to structures aimed at controlling coastal flooding. 

 

The new law will help pay for repairs to seawalls, revetments and jetties, as well as dams.  The program starts with $17 million in funds paid years ago to the state Treasury by about eight cities and towns that repaid drinking water project loans.   

 

In a statement,  American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts (ACEC/MA) Executive Director Abbie Goodman said, "The American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts is grateful to the legislature for the passage of this important dam safety and seawall legislation.  We also credit the State Auditor's office for its work on a report highlighting the dire state of 100 high hazard dams in the Commonwealth.  We are deeply concerned about maintaining the safety of infrastructure to protect the public. This bill is a great step forward for the repair or removal of these old structures.  We also appreciate our Dam Alliance partners at The Nature Conservancy,  Mass. Audubon, the Environmental League of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Municipal Association, the Boston Society of Civil Engineers Section/ASCE, the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions, the Massachusetts Water Works Association, among others, for their dedication in working for passage of this bill."

Boston Society of Civil Engineers President Peter Richardson said, "With nearly 3,000 dams in Massachusetts, of which many are well beyond their design life and are no longer serving their original intended purpose, this legislation will help address the safety and environmental concerns associated with older dams that are in need of repair. The Bill also has provisions to address seawalls, which are critical to protecting properties in coastal and tidal areas. The civil engineering community applauds the Senate and House for working together to help make our infrastructure safer."

 

ACEC/MA and BSCES are part of the Dam Alliance, which also included The Nature Conservancy, Mass. Audubon, the Massachusetts Municipal Association, the Massachusetts Water Works Association, the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions, the Environmental League of Massachusetts and several other groups.

 

The bill includes these provisions:

  • Transfers the existing $17 million from the Massachusetts Water Pollution Abatement Trust (analogous to the State Revolving Fund before federal government created SRF. This fund is dormant and could not be spent until the Legislature authorized it.)
  • Establishes a loan program for dam repair and removal (limit funding to municipalities, charitable organizations and private dam owners)
  • Enables municipalities to issue bonds for dam removal
  • Retains language to enable leveraging federal funding related to aquatic life/ecosystems
  • Codifies DCR reporting and enforcement authority
  • Authorizes DCR to assess fines of up to $5K (up from $500)
  • Splits the funding 50/50 between dams and coastal infrastructure related to flood prevention
  •      - Limits loans and grants to municipalities, charitable organizations and private dam owners – coastal infrastructure such as private seawalls are NOT in the list of eligible entities
  •     -  Expands coastal infrastructure funding beyond just seawalls to include jetties, revetments, retaining walls, and levies.  The language also has a “including but not limited to” phrase that would allow CZM to make some “climate smart choices” that reflect more modern thought on engineering and coastal dynamics that allow for consideration of the vulnerability to natural and infrastructure resources
  •     -  Expands the funding program to provide grants -- which may be more appropriate for a community conducting an engineering study
  •     -  Designates EEA to manage the Fund
  •     -  Removes the language allowing municipalities to assess betterments for dam repair and removal
  •     - Adds an emergency preamble for transferring the funds administratively
  •  
  • Press Release from The Nature Conservancy

  •  

Older Resource Information on this issue:

 

Link to a special list of 100 high hazard dams or dams in poor condition identified in the State Auditor’s January 2011 Report on dams, in alphabetical order by town. These are all municipal dams. This list does not include the many privately owned dams, which are also of grave concern. The House members representing the towns are in the column to the right.  This is in order by town, so State Representatives may be listed several times on this list, as there may be more than one high hazard municipal dam in their districts.

 

Another Dam Coalition:  ACEC/MA, BSCES, the Nature Conservancy, Mass. Audubon, the Massachusetts Municipal Association, MACC, ELM, MWWA and others worked in coalition on the passage of this bill. 
 

 

 

 
 
 
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