March 27, 2014: This bill was amended and passed by the House.  As passed by the House , this bill would require the owner of a dam to register the dam with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) by January 1, 2015, and pay a one-time registration fee. Beginning one year after registration, the dam would be subject to an annual dam safety program operation fee.  If no person has legal title to the dam, the person owning the property on which the dam is located must submit the registration and annual operation fee.  If a dam owner fails to submit the dam registration form, the DEC may inspect, or retain a licensed professional engineer to inspect, the dam and charge the cost to the owner. Waste management systems constructed and operated according to the accepted agricultural practices as administered by the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets; beaver dams; barriers, impoundments, or structures impounding less than one acre of water; municipal underground or elevated water storage tanks; or any other structure identified by the DEC by rule are not included in the definition of a “dam.”

The DEC would be required to post the location and hazard potential classification of all dams on the Agency of Natural Resources’ website. The bill would establish a process by which the DEC may designate a dam as abandoned and attach a lien on the property on which the abandoned dam is located. In addition, the bill would require the seller of property on which a dam is located to notify the buyer of the presence of the dam and provide a dam safety inspection report by a licensed, experienced engineer. The bill would also require the buyer of property on which a dam is located to notify the DEC and the town of the buyer’s name and contact information and provide the DEC with a copy of the dam safety inspection report.

The amended bill requires that fees collected for dam permits and dam registrations be used solely to cover all direct or indirect costs required to support the programs authorized under 10 V.S.A. Chapter 43 (Dams).  When the fees collected exceed the annual funding needs of 10 V.S.A. Chapter 43, the excess funds must be deposited into the state’s Unsafe Dam Revolving Loan Fund.  The amended bill sets the proposed dam registration fees and the annual dam safety program operation fees at $200 for low hazard dams, $350 for significant hazard dams, and $1,000 for high hazard dams.

The amended bill also requires the DEC to submit a report to the Legislature by January 1, 2016 that contains an evaluation of the new dam registration program, including whether impoundments of water with less than one acre of surface area should continue to be exempt from the definition of dam; a recommendation on whether to modify the fee structure of the dam registration program; a summary of the dams registered under the program, organized by amount of water impounded; and an evaluation of any other hydrologic concerns related to dam registration.

April 1, 2014:  The bill was read for the First time in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, which is scheduled to hear testimony on the bill during the week of April 14.

Click here to read the version of this bill as passed by the House.

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