Natural Resources

Efficiently and responsibly managing and protecting our water and land resources for the sustainability, health, safety, and economic benefit of the State of Arkansas

Dam Safety

Purpose

To provide for the comprehensive regulation and supervision of dams for the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Arkansas. To assure proper planning, design, construction, maintenance, monitoring, and supervision of dams, including such preventative measures necessary to provide an adequate margin of safety.

Authority

Subchapter 2 of Chapter 22 of Title 15 of the Arkansas Code of 1987, as amended, authorizes the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC) to develop and enforce rules and regulations governing the design and operation of dams in the State.

Jurisdiction

All dams with a height of 25 or more feet and containing 50 acre-feet or more of storage at the normal pool must have a valid construction and operation permit from the Commission unless they are owned by the United States Government. If smaller dams pose a threat to life or property, they may also require regulation by the State based on petitions by downstream landowners and results of public hearings.

A three-tiered classification system is used to describe the downstream damages that would occur if a regulated dam failed:

  • High Hazard: Failure of the dam will probably cause loss of human life. Excessive and extensive impacts to the public, industrial, commercial, or agricultural sectors are likely, in excess of $500,000.
  • Significant Hazard: No loss of human life is expected, but appreciable economic impacts to the public, industrial, commercial, or agricultural sectors are likely, ranging from $100,000 to $500,000.
  • Low Hazard No loss of human life is expected, and the economic impact to the public, industrial, commercial, or agricultural sectors are relatively minimal (less than $100,000).

At least once per year and after each major storm event, all owners of regulated dams must perform a visual inspection of the dam. Results of such inspections must be provided to the state within 10 days of inspection. Any deterioration of the dam or appurtenances and remedial measures undertaken must be reported. Dam Safety staff may provide training or assistance in performing or interpreting inspections.

An emergency action plan (EAP) is required for all High Hazard dams and implementation must include at least one tabletop exercise per year and one test drill every three years.

According to the National Inventory of Dams and the ANRC, there are 1,257 dams in Arkansas.  Of these, 416 dams are overseen by the State.  Fifty-seven dams within the state are operated by Federal Government agencies, including the Department of Defense, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture and the United States Army Corp of Engineers.  The remainder are below the regulatory threshold for state oversight.

A map of these dams is available at the Dam Safety Information Dashboard.

Duties of the Dam Safety Section include:

  • Reviewing applications for permits to assure proper safety standards are met
  • Issuing permits to construct and operate dams in the State
  • Inspecting dams under State jurisdiction
  • Providing information and education to dam owners and the public
  • Overseeing the development and implementation of emergency action plans for high-hazard dams
  • Responding to dam emergencies
  • Maintaining a database and files on dams in the State
  • Collecting annual permit fees (handled through the Financial Affairs Office)