Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content An Official Website of the Commonwealth of Kentucky

Energy and Environment Cabinet

Division of Water

Division of Water
Dam Safety

Water Infrastructure Branch
Dam Safety and Floodplain Compliance Section

What is a dam?

A dam is defined by KRS 151 as any structure that is 25 feet in height, measured from the downstream toe to the crest of the dam, or has a maximum impounding capacity of 50 acre-feet or more at the top of the structure.
Existing Dams
KRS 151.293, Section 6, authorizes the Energy and Environment Cabinet to inspect existing structures that meet the definition of a dam. The Dam Safety and Floodplain Compliance Section of the Water Infrastructure Branch maintains a list of these structures in an inventory database. In determining the frequency of inspection of a particular dam, the cabinet takes into consideration the size and type, topography, geology, soil condition, hydrology, climate, use of the reservoir, the lands lying in the floodplain downstream and the hazard classification of the dam.

Dam Classifications
High Hazard (C)  Structures located such that failure may cause loss of life or serious damage to houses, industrial or commercial buildings, important public utilities, main highways or major railroads.

Moderate Hazard (B)  Structures located such that failure may cause significant damage to property and project operation, but loss of human life is not envisioned.

Low Hazard (A)   Structures located such that failure would cause loss of the structure itself but little or no additional damage to other property. 

High- and moderate-hazard dams are inspected every two years. Low-hazard dams are inspected every five years. If the structure meets all the necessary requirements as outlined in Engineering Memorandum No. 5, a Certificate of Inspection is issued to the owner. Otherwise, the owner is notified of any deficiencies.
​A Condition Assessment of a dam is performed during each inspection. Dams are assigned as one of the following four conditions: Satisfactory, Fair, Poor, and Unsatisfactory. More information on Condition Assessments can be found on the Dam Safety Downloads tab.

New Dams
Depending on the type of dam, periodic inspections are performed during the construction of a new dam. A final inspection is performed when the construction is complete and as-built drawings are submitted. If the dam is constructed according to the plans and specifications, a letter is issued approving the impounding of water. The dam is then added to the inventory database.