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ODNR Dam Risk Reduction Program

About the Dam Risk Reduction Program

As part of its overall mission, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is working to implement several Class I high-hazard dam risk-reduction projects across the state, including some large-scale dam rehabilitation projects, to protect the public from catastrophic dam failures and to safeguard local economies tied to ODNR-owned reservoirs. Current assessments show that no ODNR-owned dam is in immediate danger of failure requiring emergency repairs. However, the agency has determined that some of its inland lake and reservoir dams pose an elevated risk to public safety because of their age and condition and do not comply with current dam safety requirements. Ignoring this hazard is expected to result ultimately in a dam structure failure, with unacceptable consequences, including probable loss of life, significant property damage and disruption to the local economy.

Safety Is Our Priority

Public safety is our number one priority. While ODNR cannot completely eliminate risk, we can reduce it. Our current interim risk reduction measures are in response to having previously identified dam safety issues that do not meet state standards and industry best management practices, and pose an unacceptable risk to public safety. Routine inspections and maintenance of dams will continue. Emergency action plans are being revised and will be shared with local emergency management officials as completed.

Background Information

As of  2015, the State of Ohio, through ODNR, owns and maintains 177 dams statewide, which include 56 Class I high-hazard potential dams. These are classified according to the potential impact a dam failure (unplanned breach) would have on upstream and/or downstream areas or at locations remote from the dam. Also among the state-owned total are 36 Class II, 26 Class III, 17 Class IV, and 42 exempt (from regulation) dams. Ohio law defines a Class I high-hazard potential dam as those structures that impound a total storage volume greater than 5,000 acre-feet or a height of greater than 60 feet or where sudden failure of a Class I dam would result in probable loss of human life and structural collapse of at least one residence or one commercial or industrial business. The hazard potential classification does not reflect in any way on the current condition of the dam (e.g. safety, structural integrity, or flood routing capacity).

ODNR regulates more than 1,500 publicly and privately-owned dams through the Division of Water Resource's Dam Safety Program. Most of these dams are either privately-owned or owned by local governments and have a wide variety of uses including water supplies and recreation. There are about 30 federally-owned dams in Ohio that are regulated through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The goal of ODNR's Dam Safety Program is to enhance public safety by ensuring that dams do not present unacceptable risks to people, property and the environment. One step in meeting this goal is to perform periodic dam safety inspections. These certified inspections may result in program officials directing dam owners, including the State of Ohio, to implement needed repairs or other risk-reduction measures and prepare for dam emergencies.

More information about Ohio's dams and the Ohio Dam Safety Program can be reviewed online at:

Information on the Dam Risk Reduction Program and current dam projects can be found online at:

Frequently Asked Questions

Where are these high-hazard dams located? ±

How is ODNR connected to dams in Ohio? ±

Who manages and regulates dams on Ohio's rivers and streams? ±

What are the different hazard-classes of dams in Ohio and what do they mean? ±

How are ODNR's dams prioritized for risk-reduction measures? ±

What is a risk-informed approach? ±

Which experts does ODNR work with to monitor and improve dam safety? ±

What does ODNR's Dam Safety Program do? ±

What is ODNR saying about the level of public safety and risk concerning these dams? ±

How reliable are ODNR's findings about dam deficiencies, safety and risk? ±

Why is ODNR allowed to potentially devalue property and disrupt lives and business activity with its dam repair projects? ±

What are the rights of affected homeowners and business owners during a dam risk-reduction project? ±

How may I get a copy of the construction plans for a specific project? ±

How will ODNR dam risk-reduction projects be funded? ±

How can a local community have more of a say in what's being done? ±

If the dams need corrective actions so badly, why has it taken so long to do it? ±

How To Get More Information and Share Any Concerns? ±