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Concern for dam safety in Ontario

According to a Canadian Global News TV report, provincial government cutbacks have left Ontario’s public and privately owned dams in a dangerous state of disrepair. The report said that at least

20 dams across Ontario need urgent upgrading. The report claimed that maintenance funding during the past few years has fallen far below the amount required to ensure minimum safety standards.

Many Ontario dams are maintained by the province’s conservation authorities, which are still reeling from major budget cuts instituted by the provincial Conservative government in 1996. Some dams are privately owned and not subject to any provincial or federal regulation and inspection. Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources has also seen its staff of engineers and inspectors slashed from 50 to 19 in 1990. Twelve of the remaining engineers could lose their jobs this spring.

The minster in charge of natural resources, John Snobelen, said Ontario is spending an extra C$5.8M (US$3.9M) in capital funding on dams each year for the next four years. The extra funding is on top of an existing C$8M (US$5.4M) capital budget. Snobelen also said that the province has inspected some 2200 dams across Ontario and is in the process of deciding which ones are in urgent need of repair. In addition, the government is also working with municipalities, the federal government, conservation authorities and private dam owners to set up the Ontario Dam Safety Programme, a strategy which was announced in 1999.