Assemblymember Cahill Raises Safety Concerns Over Dam Disclosure Bill

Bill would mandate the distribution of detailed high-hazard dam inspection reports to municipalities located nearby such facilities.
March 6, 2006

Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D – Ulster and Dutchess Counties), citing concerns of terrorism, voted against legislation (A.9517-A) that would mandate the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) provide copies of dam safety inspection reports to municipalities in and around areas where intermediate or high-hazard dams are located.

This legislation only applies to reports prepared by the DEC and not the routine inspections – those recently highlighted in the media – undertaken by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. Speaking on the floor of the Assembly, Mr. Cahill questioned the wisdom of disseminating highly technical information that could potentially expose the vulnerabilities of these facilities, thereby unintentionally providing a blueprint for terrorists. “There is no question that we must require a greater level of accountability from the DEP with regard to dams and reservoirs located within the New York City watershed,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “In doing so, we must ensure that actions taken towards that goal do not inadvertently threaten the safety of our communities.

Paramount among the Assemblymember’s concerns was that the legislation required that reports be provided to municipalities that might not have a specific interest in the subject matter contained within. Mr. Cahill suggested that these municipalities in question might not take the measures necessary to protect the confidentiality of the reports. “By automatically providing detailed engineering reports to those who may not necessarily understand the sensitive nature of such information, we are putting our citizens at risk,” warned Mr. Cahill. He went on to add, “I am not opposed to providing information to communities alerting them to matters that would require them to have a specific emergency management plan. I believe we can do this without mandating that they receive a copy of the inspection reports.”

In recognizing the need for greater safety standards, Mr. Cahill has introduced legislation (A.9571) that directs the New York State Disaster Preparedness Commission to focus on state and local prevention, response and recovery plans in the event of the occurrence of a natural or man-made disaster involving existing reservoirs, dams and associated waterways. The proposed law would not only stress the importance of the maintenance and continued assessment of the state’s dams and reservoirs, but would also make sure that the surrounding communities are properly prepared to deal with a crisis situation should an emergency arise.

“This past year has especially highlighted the impact natural and man-made disasters can have on our communities,” observed Mr. Cahill. “I believe that government has both a moral and legal obligation to keep our citizenry safe to the utmost extent possible. It is my hope that we can address these concerns before this legislation goes into effect,” he concluded.