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Alabama remains only state without safety program for dams

Alabama Power is regulated by the federal government.
Alabama Power is regulated by the federal government.(Source: WSFA)
Published: Apr. 1, 2022 at 9:38 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 1, 2022 at 10:15 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama is the only state in the country without a safety program for dams.

The state got a C- in the most recent infrastructure report put together by the American Society of Civil Engineers, but the category for dams did not receive a letter grade.

“The report card does identify areas that need improvement,” said Joe Meads with the Alabama Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

“Unfortunately, most dams in Alabama are out of sight and out of mind,” the report reads. It also explains the state lacks an “institutional office” to lead inspections and educate communities.

Alabama Power operates 14 dams in the state, like the one at Lake Martin. A supervisor who works with the group explained a statewide dam safety program has had some growing interest over the years, but it wouldn’t really affect the company.

“Because Alabama Power is regulated through a federal agency, a state dam safety program likely wouldn’t have an impact on how we do our business,” said Richard Mickwee, dam safety and surveillance supervisor for Southern Co.

A state program would affect dams that are not currently being regulated, perhaps those that pose a greater risk. That is why Alabama Power said it follows federal regulations.

“We’re in the prevention business, preventing any problems that we see, small problems turning into big problems,” Mickwee said.

The American Society of Civil Engineers explains a statewide safety program is years away.

The public can also take some steps to stay safe around dams. Those boating within 800 feet below a dam should wear a life jacket.

Alabamians who live near a dam should also keep their plants properly trimmed to prevent any complications.

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