July 24, 2006
IJC releases update on its 1998 Report, Unsafe Dams?
The International Joint Commission (IJC) has released its Update of the International Joint Commission’s 1998 Report "Unsafe Dams?" Seven Years Later—What Has Changed? Since the 1998 report, and after September 11, 2001 in particular, agencies in both countries at the federal, state and provincial level have placed increased emphasis on public safety and emergency preparedness.
The new report notes that emergency action plans are now in place for all dams under IJC Orders with the exception of the Prairie Portage, the International Kettle Falls and the Squirrel Falls dams between Ontario and Minnesota in the Rainy basin, and other steps have been taken to enhance security at these structures.
However, the report notes, the status of regular inspections and oversight by governments of these structures has remained largely unchanged in Canada, except for the province of British Columbia. In 1998, there were no regular inspections by federal or provincial governments in Canada. In contrast, all such facilities in the United States now have regular government inspections mainly by two U.S. federal government agencies, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Bureau of Reclamation of the US Department of the Interior.
The IJC notes that governments have not yet put in place suitable arrangements for joint oversight of structures under its Orders that extend across the border. Although the U.S. government now regularly provides a courtesy copy of its findings on the inspection of the U.S. portion of a joint structure to the owner of the Canadian portion of the joint structure, no Canadian governmental framework exists to permit joint governmental information sharing.
The IJC’s 1998 report “Unsafe Dams?” covered a range of factors that contribute to the safe operation of dams and dykes that are subject to its Orders. These factors included:
- requirements for comprehensive inspection programs;
- proper maintenance and repairs;
- adequate emergency and security action plans with inundation maps;
- evacuation plans and public awareness programs; and,
- the geography and other features of a watershed that could affect safety.
The report concluded that the prime responsibility for public protection ultimately rests with the two federal governments. It recommended that they oversee the safety of facilities at the Canada–U.S. border subject to IJC Orders, and put in place suitable arrangements for joint oversight of structures under IJC Orders that extend across the Canada–U.S border.
The report, An Update of the International Joint Commission’s 1998 Report "Unsafe Dams?" Seven Years Later—What Has Changed? is available at www.ijc.org, under Publications (use the search term "unsafe dams") or www.ijc.org/php/publications/pdf/ID1592.pdf. A printed version is available on request.
The International Joint Commission prevents and resolves disputes between the United States of America and Canada under the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty and pursues the common good of both countries as an independent and objective advisor to the two governments.