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Introduced by Representative Deen of Westminster

Referred to Committee on


Subject:  Conservation and development; water resources; dams

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to require the owners of all dams in the state to register with the agency of natural resources and to complete an annual inspection of the dams.


It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  Sections 1080-1106 of 10 V.S.A. chapter 43 are recodified within subchapter 1, which is added to read:

Subchapter 1.  Construction and Modification of Dams

Sec. 2.  10 V.S.A. chapter 43, subchapter 2 is added to read:

Subchapter 2.  Repermitting and Removal of Dams


As used in this subchapter:

(1)  “Agency” means the agency of natural resources.

(2)  “Appurtenant works” means structures, either in dams or separate therefrom, including, but not limited to, spillways; reservoirs and their rims; low-level outlet works; and water conduits, including tunnels, pipelines, or penstocks, either through the dams or their abutments.

(3)(A)  “Dam” means any artificial barrier, including appurtenant works, which impounds or diverts water, and which:

(i)  is 25 feet or more in height from the natural bed of the stream or watercourse measured at the downstream toe of the barrier, or from the lowest elevation of the outside limit of the barrier, if it is not across a stream channel or watercourse, to the maximum water storage elevation;

(ii)  has an impounding capacity at maximum water storage elevation of 50 acre feet or more; or

(iii)  is any artificial barrier, including appurtenant works, the breaching of which could endanger property or safety and that the secretary designates as a dam.  The secretary shall make a designation under this subdivision after taking into consideration factors such as height, type of structure, condition of structure, volume of the impoundment, extent of development downstream, and other factors deemed appropriate by the secretary.

(B)  “Dam” shall not mean any of the following:

(i)  any appurtenant works which temporarily impounds or diverts water used on land used for farming as that term is defined in subdivision 6001(22) of this title,

(ii)  any barrier or appurtenant works which has a size classification of small or low hazard potential classification that is used on land used for farming, as that term is defined in subdivision 6001(22) of this title, and

(iii)  any barrier which is not in excess of six feet in height, regardless of storage capacity, or which has a storage capacity at maximum water storage elevation not in excess of 15 acre feet, regardless of height.

(4)  “Owner” means the person or persons, including any individual, firm, partnership, association, syndicate, company, trust corporation, municipality, agency, political or administrative subdivision of the state, or any other legal entity of any kind holding legal title to a dam, but excluding the United States, its agencies, or any person who operates a dam owned by the United States.

(5)  “Secretary” means the secretary of natural resources.

(6)  “Unsafe dam” means a dam whose condition, as determined by the secretary, is such that a high risk of failure exists.

(7)  “Water storage elevation” means the maximum elevation without encroaching on the approved freeboard at maximum design flood.


(a)  On or before July 1, 2008 and before operating any dam constructed thereafter, the owner of a dam shall register with the secretary on a form prescribed by the secretary.  The form shall contain the name of the owner of the dam, the location and the dimensions of the dam, and such other information as the secretary may require by rule.

(b)  Failure to file a dam registration form as required by subsection 9(a) of this section shall subject the owner to penalties under chapter 201 of this title, and an inspection by the commissioner who may enter the property of the owner to obtain the requisite information.

(c)  The registered owner of any dam shall notify the secretary, by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, of the transfer of legal title of the dam and any changes for which the department may require notice by rule, not later than 10 days after the date of such transfer or change.

(d)  Upon receipt and approval of the dam registration form, the agency shall issue a certificate of registration to each dam owner.  The certificate of registration shall classify the hazard potential of the dam.


(a)  On or before July 1, 2009 and at least annually thereafter, a dam shall be inspected by a professional engineer in accordance with rules adopted by the agency.  Upon completion of the inspection, the owner of a dam shall submit to the secretary an inspection report.  The secretary shall prescribe the form of the dam inspection report.  The report shall contain:  the hazard potential classification of the dam, as noted in the certificate of the registration; information relative to the present condition, safety, and adequacy of the dam; such other information as the commissioner may require by rule; and the name and signature of the professional engineer that completed the inspection.

(b)  If an owner fails to file a dam inspection form as required by subsection (a) of this section, the owner shall be subject to penalties under chapter 210 of this title and the secretary may enter the property on which the dam is located in order to conduct an inspection of the dam.  The cost of an inspection performed by the secretary plus interest shall be assessed against the owner.

(c)  If the secretary determines at any time that the dam is unsafe, the secretary may order the owner of the dam to:

(1)  Take immediate corrective action, including the alteration, repair, or removal of the dam or drawing down of the impounded water to abate a threat to safety and property; or

(2)  Hire a registered professional civil engineer to complete an evaluation of the dam, who shall recommend the course of action necessary to bring the dam into a safe condition and establish a time schedule by which the work shall be accomplished.  The evaluation shall include such tests as the secretary may require.

(d)  The secretary shall record notice of an order issued under subsection (c) of this section in the land records of the municipality in which the dam is located.  The cost of such recording, plus interest from the date of recording, may be assessed against the owner.

(e)  If the secretary orders an evaluation under subsection (c) of this section, the owner shall meet with the secretary to establish a course of action and schedule for completion.  Notice of such work and schedule for completion shall be provided to the owner.  If water has been drawn off or the structure has been altered pursuant to an order by the secretary, the impoundment shall not be refilled without approval of the commissioner.  The commissioner may inspect the work to the extent necessary to establish compliance with the order.  When the work has been completed, the owner shall file plans and descriptions of the work with the commissioner as actually constructed, together with any other pertinent and required data.  

§ 1114.  UNSAFE DAMS

If an owner of a dam fails to take corrective action or fails to file an evaluation report within the time specified in the order, as required under section 1113 of this title or if the owner of the dam cannot be determined, the secretary may take such action as he or she deems necessary to repair or mitigate an unsafe dam in order to put the dam in an acceptable structural and operational condition, as defined by rules adopted by the agency of natural resources.


No order, approval, request, or advice of the commissioner shall impair the legal duties and obligations of the owners of reservoirs, reservoir dams, or mill dams or their liability for the consequences of their illegal acts or of the neglect or mismanagement of their agents.


The secretary may adopt rules to carry out the provisions of this subchapter.

Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont