Georgia’s Safe Dams Act was enacted in 1978 in order to reduce the risk of dam failures by providing that “certain dams” must have a permit issued by the state and be regularly inspected by the state. Such permitting and inspections are under the authority of the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Dams that are subject to the Safe Dams Act are generally defined as artificial barriers (i.e., dams) that are either
Dams that are subject to the Safe Dams Act fall into one of two categories. They are either Category I or Category II.
Category I dams are those “certain dams” within the Safe Dams Act that require a permit from the state. Since the Safe Dams Act provides that a Category I dam will result in a probable loss of human life in the event it fails, Category I dams are required to comply with statutory safety standards and are inspected annually by the Georgia DNR. By 2012, there were 385 Category I dams in the state, and according to Tom Woosley P.E. with the Georgia DNR, more than 60% of the Category I dams are located in the metro Atlanta area. This does make sense statistically because of the population density. Since there are more people in the metro area than any other area in the state, it is more probable there would be a loss of human live if a dam subject to the Safe Dams Act did fail in or near Atlanta.
Category II dams do not require a permit from the state and do not require any of the safety standards that are imposed on Category I dams. As of 2012, there were 4,000 Category II dams identified within Georgia which are inventoried every five years. The purpose of inventorying Category II dams is not to inspect whether the dams are meeting safety standards. Instead, the primary purpose is to see if there has been a change in circumstances that would cause a Category II dam to be reclassified as a Category I dam. That is, if circumstances have changed so that a failure of a Category II dam would result in the probable loss of human life, the Category II dam would be reclassified to Category I. The change in circumstance might be a house that has been built downstream of the dam.