As the popularity and participation in water based recreation increases, the designers, builders and owners of water structures must recognize the potential that the public may intentionally or unintentionally encounter their structures during recreational activities. A review of the current dam safety permitting regulations reveals that most do not require planners, designers or owners to address the potential hazards created by the structure to recreational users of the waterway and surrounding areas. Also, most often absent from these regulations is any requirement that designers and owners create and implement a safety program to reduce the risk to recreational users.
Public safety would be well served by state permitting regulations which require formal consideration by the applicant of the hazards present to recreational uses near low head dams and other such structures. Regulations should be considered which require an assessment of the recreational uses of an area and require applicants to expressly recognize hazards posed to recreational users. Applicants should also evaluate the areas where potentially hazardous waters may pose serious threat to users. Access should be restricted to these areas through the use of warnings as well as physical barriers and obstructions. These could be appropriately presented and considered as part of the application for permit approval. Permitting regulations place the appropriate burden on the applicant to address these concerns, rather than requiring the state to initiate and maintain inspection and evaluation procedures.