Texas officials are failing to inspect the state

Keel's reports noted that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has made improvements, but inspections are far below the needed number.

TCEQ has only seven inspectors to keep track of 7,603 dams. The agency also contracts with two independent entities.

”The current rate of inspections is well below best practice standards established by the Association of State Dam Safety Officials and The National Dam Safety Act,” the audit stated.

Safety officials recommend that high-hazard dams be inspected annually and significant-hazard dams be examined every two years, the report noted.

The audit added, ”However, at the rate of inspection achieved by the commission in fiscal year 2007, an additional 1,098 inspections would have needed to be completed to achieve this target.”

The bottom line, according to the audit, is that the low rate of inspections means the state lacks adequate information about the condition of many potentially hazardous dams.

TCEQ officials agreed with the audit’s findings.

The auditor suggested numerous changes in procedures and determining what additional resources are needed.

Lawmakers must shoulder the burden for finding more money for inspections. They rightfully will take the heat if any major dams fail.

An official with TCEQ told the Senate Natural Resources Committee this week the state provides $350,000 a year for dam inspections and the Federal Emergency Management Agency provides $240,000, the Dallas Morning News reported.

The newspaper reported that John Sadlier, TCEQ deputy director of compliance and enforcement, said $3 million per biennium and 24 employees are needed.

Even if the program is improved, the audit noted another disturbing fact: federal and state funding to help dam owners make needed make repairs is limited and it would take an estimated $711 million to rehabilitate just the high-hazard dams.

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—San Antonio Express-News