Dam Owners With Gated Spillways Face June 1 Deadline

Janis Murphy

Dam owners in Texas need to understand how to implement a new state requirement to notify emergency management officials downstream when a release of water is planned so that they can alert their communities.

The requirement, which the Texas Legislature adopted in HB 26, took effect Sept. 1, 2019, and impacts large and intermediate-size state-regulated dams with gated spillways used to make flood releases.

Notification is not required when flood releases are made for reasons other than flood releases, such as maintenance or testing of gate operations.

Dam owners must implement the new notification system by June 1. That means adding the notice to the Emergency Action Plan (EAP) for the dam and filing a copy with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).  The notification process will be subject to TCEQ review and acceptance.

TCEQ provided templates for the new notifications in revised Guidelines for Developing Emergency Action Plans for Dams in Texas published in December. The document is available on the Dam Safety page of the TCEQ website.

What Dam Owners Need to Know

  • Their existing EAP should be modified to include a tab with the gate operation release notification.
  • The EAP must also include an additional notification flowchart as outlined in the TCEQ guidelines.
  • Gate release notifications must include:
    • Name of the dam and reservoir
    • Communities downstream that may be impacted
    • Estimated time of impact
    • Names of rivers and streams affected
    • Expected duration of the release
    • Level of potential flooding according to the National Weather Service River Forecast Center
    • Roads and bridges affected
  • Emergency management officials (not dam owners) are responsible for notifying residents and businesses in their jurisdiction after receiving notification from a dam owner.


Introductory paragraph for explanation of purpose to operations staff


Note: Per HB26 from the 86th Texas Legislative Session, the owner or operator of an intermediate or large-size, state-regulated dam with spillway gates used to make releases to regulate flood waters must notify emergency management officials of downstream communities when flood releases are made.  Notification is not required when flood releases are made for reasons other than flood releases such as maintenance or testing of gate operations.

Sample Notification

Announcement for a Flood Release

[Dam Owner] is preparing to release flood waters from [dam name, Texas ID number] as of [time and date]. Releases are required as a result of                                                                             .

[Briefly describe the problem or condition leading to the release, i.e., rainfall over the last week, intense rainfall in the drainage area, etc.]

In compliance with State regulations, we are announcing planned releases from [               dam name].

The immediate impact will be to low-lying areas along [describe area and communities potentially affected].

For maximum releases, the following roads potentially could be impacted: [list roads] 

It is anticipated that releases will be                                          cfs and are anticipated to continue through                                                          [timeframe]. 

[Describe the level of potential flooding that will be expected according to the National Weather Service River Forecast Center.]

Actual flood conditions may vary significantly from the alert based on new or changed conditions; advanced alerts of changed conditions may not be possible.

Notification Flowchart

For more information about complying with this new requirement, contact me at JCM@freese.com.