The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality's Dam Safety Program recently received the Southeast Regional Award for its work pioneering and implementing internal software programs and studies to monitor dam infrastructure across the state.
The Association of State Dam Safety Officials awarded the program at their annual September conference in Baltimore. The Dam Safety Program is a part of the Department of Environmental Quality’s Energy, Mineral and Land Resources division.
North Carolina’s Dam Safety Program has "initiated several innovative projects to provide for the safety of dams, reduction of risks and benefits for the state," according to the ASDSO.
State Dam Safety Engineer Josh Colley said taking a risk-based approach to dam safety is relatively new.
“We have been working to start up that process as part of our inspection routine,” Colley said.
One risk-based approach being implemented in the program is the Semi-Quantitative Risk Assessment method. In the next upcoming dam inspection season, items on a tech-based safety checklist will be evaluated and then scored based on their condition.
“There's an overall score that's computed for that particular dam,” Colley said. “We can use that as a rough estimate of the potential probability of failure for that dam.”
Colley added that this is a new process still being refined.
Another software being developed and used for internal purposes at the DEQ is Dam Watch. The software uses stream gauges and data from overtopping studies, allowing officials to set a threshold for each dam. When a water basin receives a forecast at this level, an alert is produced.