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House Adopts Two Dingell Amendments on Dam Safety in FY21 Energy and Water Development Funding Package

Dingell Amendments Will Improve Federal Oversight, State Cooperation, and Emphasize Existing Laws to Ensure Safe Dam and Hydropower Projects

Washington, July 30, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, the House of Representatives passed two amendments led by Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) in the Energy and Water Development appropriations package for Fiscal Year 2021. The two amendments aim to improve the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) dam and hydropower safety oversight nationwide by emphasizing the need to continue developing best practices, as well as reiterate to FERC to issue hydropower licenses with conditions that are consistent with rules and regulation to protect “life, health, and property.”

Dingell’s Dam and Hydropower Safety Amendments would:

  • Emphasizes the need for FERC to invest further in improving dam and hydropower operations though convening a technical conference with states to improve best practices nationwide [cosponsored by Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI)].
  • Prohibits funds for FERC to grant a hydropower license in contravention of the requirement for a licensee to conform to the rules and regulations of FERC’s dam safety requirements under the Federal Power Act.

“The breach of the Edenville Dam and Sanford Dam failures in Michigan caused extensive damage in Michigan and its downstream communities. It drowned homes, businesses, and whole cities,” said Dingell. “It is clear there are serious gaps in existing laws that need to be addressed. This can never happen again in any city in America with a high hazard dam. That is the foundation and aim of my amendments—to improve dam safety long-term and protect communities.”

In May, the breach of the Edenville Dam and Sanford Dam failures in Michigan caused extensive damage throughout the region’s downstream communities that drowned homes, businesses, and whole cities. The monetary costs for the dam failures is estimated to be over $200 million.

The Edenville dam and its operator, Boyce Hydro, had a long history of dam safety and compliance problems. In response Dingell and Upton sent letters to FERC regarding its oversight and the state of Michigan to gather the facts on the dam breach, how the state evaluated the dam in the time since, and additional information on the regulatory and legal actions the state took following the revocation of the license. 

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