Time for dam safety awareness

Published 9:16 pm Thursday, December 10, 2015


To the editor:

Now that Polk County is back on track with its dam repair schedule, it is a good time to focus on public safety information concerning our 90-year-old Turner Shoals Dam.

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On behalf of Polk County citizens, the Protect Polk Water group has procured some helpful public dam safety educational brochures called Living With Dams: Know Your Risks, prepared by the Association of State Dam Safety Officials and Federal Emergency Management Agency.


They are available either online as an e-booklet at livingneardams.org/ and fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1845-25045-7939/fema_p_956_living_with_dams.pdf or available for pick up at the following locations: Mill Spring Agricultural Center (Kelly French, Polk County Soil & Water District administrator), Polk Government (Womack Building) offices of County Manager Marche Pittman, Emergency Management Director Bobby Arledge, County Planner Cathy Ruth, and at the Polk County Library in Columbus.


Some interesting facts found in the brochures:

  • North Carolina has more than 3,000 dams (Polk County has 13 dams)
  • The average age of dams in the U.S. is more than 53 year old (Turner Shoals is 90)
  • 19.7 percent of dams in US are owned by local governments (like Turner Shoals Dam on Lake Adger) and these owners are solely (financially) responsible for safety repairs, maintenance and upgrades
  • 80 percent of dams in the US are regulated by the state (Turner Shoals Dam is regulated by NC DENR DEMLR Land Quality Section)
  • 34 percent of US dams are for recreational purposes and only 3 percent are for hydroelectric power (Turner Shoals is both)
  • Dam types can be embankment (earthen or rock fill), concrete or tailings – industrial waste (note: our Turner Shoals dam is a multiple (7) arch, concrete type, 668 feet long/86 feet high, built in 1925 by Mees Engineering firm from Charlotte, cost was $900,000.


The brochure talks about the importance of preparing an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) for all High Hazard dams (Turner Shoals is a High Hazard) in order to adequately protect those living below these dams, which Polk has done. This EAP is housed at the Emergency Management Office of Bobby Arledge.


An integral part of this emergency plan is Polk County’s CodeRED high-speed notification system, to alert the public as to any dam safety events or concerns, like flooding. The following link will allow you to register your phone number, cell number and email so the county can alert you in the event of an emergency: https://public.coderedweb.com/CNE/993C2AD17ACA.
For any questions, contact Polk County Emergency Management at 828-894-6342. For more information about public dam safety and awareness see the Association of State Dam Safety officials website, at damsafety.org or NC Dam Safety at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/lr/dams.


– Sky Conard
Mill Spring, N.C.