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Charles Schumer: More than 1,000 NY dams at risk of failure

The Kensico Dam faces the Kensico Dam Plaza

The Kensico Dam faces the Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla. (Feb. 23, 2012) Photo Credit: Angela Gaul

The Hudson Valley has nearly 400 dams at risk of failure, Sen. Charles Schumer said Thursday, calling upon Congress to divert millions of dollars in federal funds to the National Dam Safety Program to maintain and repair dams.

Statewide, there are more than 1,100 dams considered hazards and at least three-quarters don't have an emergency plan should the structures fail, Schumer said during a conference call with reporters.

The New York Democrat called on federal legislators to approve the Water Resources Development Act of 2013, which is up for a vote in the next two weeks.

"As our weather patterns become more extreme and our nation's dams and other infrastructure continue to age, it's the federal government's job to invest in upgrades to our dams to make these structures safer and more reliable," Schumer said. "We cannot needlessly put New Yorkers' property or even lives at risk should a maintenance glitch or flood occur."

In a written report, Schumer said Westchester County has a large number of at-risk dams -- with 32 "high-hazard" dams and 43 "significant hazards." The report said that many of the region's at-risk dams lack suitable emergency plans.

A spokeswoman for Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said she hadn't seen the report and wasn't prepared to comment on the state of the county's dams.

Rockland County has 13 "high-hazard" and 16 "significant-hazard" dams, with 20 that lacked emergency plans, and Orange County has 22 "high-hazard" and 50 "significant-hazard" dams, the report stated.

Federal officials define a "high-hazard" dam as one in which a failure would cause a loss of human life and property destruction. The failure of a "significant-hazard" dam would cause significant property destruction.

The legislation mirrors a similar effort in the House by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-Cold Spring), who two weeks ago filed a bill to allocate $32 million over five years to help maintain dam infrastructure. He said the move ultimately would save the state money and ease the burden of local and state municipalities with tight budgets.

"We must ensure safety inspections on local dams are done in a timely way," Maloney said in a statement.

A recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers rated New York seventh in the nation for money budgeted toward dam maintenance, spending nearly $1.4 million annually, and seventh in the nation for most "high-hazard" dams.

Schumer's report did not list the dams deemed to be hazardous.

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