Power of Water Conference 2016

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Public Safety

Public Safety Around Dams

In Ontario there are more than 200 waterpower (hydroelectric) facilities in operation and more than 500 dams associated with these facilities. Additionally, there are more than 2,000 other dams in the province which are used for flood control, irrigation and navigation. These dams are owned by municipalities, Conservation Authorities, private landowners, other industries and the province.

Waterpower facilities are often operated remotely from another location and may have frequent and substantial changes in flows and levels. Sudden unexpected changes can have a direct effect on your personal safety.

Know the Hazards

Hydraulic Waves

The rushing tailrace (exiting water) of a dam can result in a circular spinning motion which can force a person underwater and result in drowning. These waves are commonly referred to as Hydraulic Waves. See diagram below.

Variation in Flows and Levels

Flows and levels near dams can increase and decrease suddenly. Below are photos taken several miles downstream from a hydroelectric facility, note the change in the landscape in just under 2.5 hours.

Stay Safe 

• Obey and stay well away from all warning signs, fences, buoys, booms and barriers.

• Never swim above a dam or dive from a dam structure

• Keep back from the edge of waters above and below dams

• Never fish or boat below a dam

• Never stand below a dam, or anchor your boat near a dam

• Never sunbathe, picnic or camp in an area which may become flooded due to dam operations.

Public Safety Around Dams Signage

In August 2011, the Province of Ontario (Ministry of Natural Resources) posted a decision notice on the Environmental Registry updating the Ontario dam safety standards and technical guidelines. The policy decision notice announces the release of the Administrative Guide for the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act and the series of technical bulletins and best management practices. The ER decision notice can be accessed by going to the link www.ontario.ca/environmentalregistry and searching the Registry Number 011-1306.

In support of rolling out the new guidelines, MNR has developed a new website where the Lakes and River Improvement Act Administrative Guide, Technical Bulletins and Best Management Practices are posted for public information. These documents can be accessed online by downloading them from http://ontario.ca/dams.   

The Canadian Dam Association publication Dam Safety Guidelines 2007 and the companion series of Technical Bulletins are available for purchase on the CDA website. It is suggested that the guidelines and technical bulletins be consulted prior  to determining the number of signs to be placed at a facility  and/or with respect to sign installation. The OWA assumes no responsibility with respect to the owner’s placement or number of signs.

Each order must reference the facility for which the signage is to be used to ensure the correct contact information be listed on the bottom protected space of the sign(s).

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Additional Resources

Ontario Power Generation

Ministry of Natural Resources

Canadian Dam Association