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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

New York Article 15 Dam Construction Permit (7-NY-f)

In New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is entrusted with the regulatory power to oversee dam safety. To protect people from the loss of life and property due to flooding and/or dam failure, the DEC Dam Safety Section reviews proposed dam construction and/or modifications, conducts dam safety inspections, and monitors projects for compliance with dam safety criteria. To acquire a permit for the construction, reconstruction, or repair of a dam or other impoundment, a developer must submit an application to the DEC for an Article 15 Dam Construction Permit, along with the Joint Application Form that, if approved, allows the developer to undertake activities affecting waters within the state. Dam Safety, Coastal & Flood Protection (New York); Dam Safety (New York).


Article 15 Dam Construction Permit Process

7-NY-f.1 to 7-NY-f.2 – Will the Project Require an Article 15 Dam Construction Permit?

A developer may not commence any work (including site preparation) on the construction or reconstruction of a dam, or repairs on an existing dam, without a permit issued by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). N.Y. Env. Cons. L. § 15-0503.

New York statutes and regulations define a “dam” as “any artificial barrier, including any earthen barrier, together with its appurtenant works, which impounds or will impound waters, provided it has (1) a height equal to or greater than fifteen feet or (2) a maximum impoundment capacity equal to or greater than three million gallons; except that for purposes[,]” but not including “any structure which has (i) a height equal to or less than six feet regardless of the structure’s impoundment capacity, or (ii) an impoundment capacity not exceeding one million gallons regardless of the structure’s height.” N.Y. Env. Cons. L. § 15-0503; 6 CRR-NY 608.3; 6 CRR-NY 673.2(f). Section 608.3.


7-NY-f.3 – Contact the Department of Environmental Conservation

The developer should contact the DEC early on in the planning process to discuss the proposed project, the dam’s hazard classification, and application requirements for an Article 15 Dam Construction Permit.

7-NY-f.4 – Hazard Classification Report

Before submitting an application for an Article 15 Dam Construction Permit, the developer must produce a hazard classification report, which includes a proposed hazard classification based on the dam’s conceptual design. DEC’s publication, New York Department of Environmental Conservation - Guidelines for Design of Dams, provides design criteria for a typical dam.

Note: For modification of an existing dam that already has a hazard classification report, it is advisable that the developer use this process to confirm that the previously assigned hazard classification is still valid. The DEC will accept information at any time for consideration of a revision to an existing dam’s hazard classification.

The hazard classifications for dams may be assigned irrespective of the size of the dam, as appropriate, and are as follows:

Class A or low hazard dam - dam failure is unlikely to result in damage to anything more than isolated or unoccupied buildings, undeveloped lands, minor roads such as town or county roads; is unlikely to result in the interruption of important utilities, including water supply, sewage treatment, fuel, power, cable or telephone infrastructure; and/or is otherwise unlikely to pose the threat of personal injury, substantial economic loss or substantial environmental damage.

Class B or intermediate hazard dam - dam failure may result in damage to isolated homes, main highways, and minor railroads; may result in the interruption or important utilities, including water supply, sewage treatment, fuel, power, cable or telephone infrastructure; and/or is otherwise likely to pose a threat of personal injury and/or substantial economic loss or substantial environmental damage. Loss of human life is not expected.

Class C or high hazard dam - dam failure may result in widespread or serious damage to home(s); damage to main highways, industrial or commercial buildings, railroads, and/or important utilities, including water supply, sewage treatment, fuel, power, cable or telephone infrastructure; or substantial environmental damage; such that the loss of human life or widespread substantial economic loss is likely.

Class D or negligible or no hazard dam - A dam that has been breached or removed, or has failed or otherwise no longer materially impounds waters, or a dam that was planned but never constructed. Class D dams are considered to be defunct dams posing negligible or no hazard.

6 CRR-NY 673.5(b).


7-NY-f.5 – Conduct Technical Review of Developer’s Hazard Classification Report

Upon receipt, the DEC conducts a technical review of the developer’s hazard classification report. The DEC considers the following factors in evaluating and assigning a hazard classification:

  1. The height, impoundment capacity and physical characteristics of the dam;
  2. The physical characteristics of the location of the dam, including the areas which would be affected by a failure of the dam; and
  3. The potential consequences and other circumstances relevant to the failure of the dam, including, without limitation:
    • Personal injury and loss of human life;
    • Damage to developed areas, occupied buildings, or other land improvements;
    • Economic loss;
    • Damage to natural resources;
    • Proximity to and possible impairment of access to emergency services; and
    • Other site-specific characteristics or factors which the department determines are necessary to consider.

6 CRR-NY 673.5(a).


7-NY-f.6 – Preliminary Opinion

Once the DEC completes its technical review of the developer’s hazard classification report, the DEC issues a preliminary opinion regarding the dam’s future hazard classification. The DEC uses the preliminary opinion to recommend additional permit requirements and design criteria for the dam. The DEC may require additional information and design criteria for a dam, depending upon the dam’s hazard classification.

7-NY-f.7 to 7-NY-f.8 - Does the Developer Agree With the DEC’s Dam Hazard Classification?

The developer may contest the DEC’s hazard classification at any time by sending a written request for hazard classification review to the DEC’s Dam Safety Section and providing documentation of the specific potential impacts posed by the dam’s failure, based on the specific physical characteristics of the dam and its location. A request for hazard classification review is typically accompanied by an analysis conducted by a licensed professional engineer. 6 CRR-NY 673.5(e).

7-NY-f.9 to 7-NY-f.10 - Review Request and Supporting Documentation

The director of the DEC’s Division of Water, or a duly authorized designee, will review the developer’s request and supporting documentation and issue a written decision either denying the developer’s request or changing the hazard classification. 6 CRR-NY 673.5(e).

7-NY-f.11 – Joint Application Form; Supplement D-1 Application; Engineering Design Report

The developer must submit a Joint Application Form, a Supplement D-1 application, and an engineering design report, along with five (5) copies of all required documents, to the DEC.

Along with the Joint Application Form, the developer must provide:

  1. A plan of the proposed project;
  2. A map showing the project location; and
  3. “Additional information” the DEC deems necessary to properly review and assess the effects of a proposed project.

6 CRR-NY 608.6(a).

In order for the DEC to evaluate the safety of a proposed dam, the DEC requires that the “additional information” include the following:

  1. A plan showing the proposed dam and dam appurtenances, horizontal and vertical controls, the normal water level in the lake or pond, the limits of the owner’s property, the location of drill holes, test pits or other foundation exploration, the location of borrow areas, and topographic contours at the dam and around the anticipated reservoir area, including 2-foot contours to 6 feet above high water level;
  2. A profile along the dam axis from abutment to abutment and a cross section diagram of the dam at its maximum height, showing original, existing, and proposed conditions;
  3. A profile along the center line and a cross section diagram(s) of the spillways, including stilling basins, outlet work, and other details of the design of the structures;
  4. Specifications for the materials and for the methods of construction;
  5. A description of construction inspection activities, to be performed by the applicant’s engineer, to ensure that work is performed in conformance with the approved design;
  6. A record of subsurface investigation and soils information used by the design engineer or conservationist for foundation and borrow assessment;
  7. Any additional drawings needed to clearly show all details of the proposed project; and
  8. If requested by the DEC, samples of the foundation, embankment and construction materials.

6 CRR-NY 608.6(a); Supplement D-1 application.

Generally, permit applications with respect to dams must also include:

  1. Hydrological, hydraulic, and soils information;
  2. An engineering design report prepared, stamped and sealed by an engineer, which sufficiently details the safety aspects of the proposed dam, or proposed activities, and which includes:
    • A narrative description of the proposed project;
    • The proposed hazard classification of the dam as a result of the proposed activities or project;
    • A hydrologic investigation of the watershed and an assessment of the hydraulic adequacy of the dam;
    • An evaluation of the foundation and surrounding conditions, and materials involved in the structure of the dam, in sufficient detail to accurately define the design of the dam and assess its safety, including its structural stability;
    • Structural and hydraulic design studies, calculations and procedures, which shall, at a minimum, be consistent with generally accepted sound engineering practice in the field of dam design and safety;
    • A description of any proposed permanent instrument installations in the dam;
  3. Construction plans and specifications that are sufficiently detailed for department evaluation of the safety aspects of the dam; and
  4. Any other information the department deems necessary.

6 CRR-NY 608.3; 6 CRR-NY 608.6(b)]].

As mentioned above, the DEC may require additional information and design criteria, depending upon the dam’s hazard classification.

Class A Dams

In response to a permit request concerning a class A dam, the DEC may accept a certification from an engineer that the proposed dam or activities are, at a minimum, consistent with generally accepted sound engineering practices in the field of dam design and safety, in lieu of the Engineering Design Report and the construction plans and specifications. 6 CRR-NY 608.6(b).

Class B Dams

Developers of Class B – Intermediate Hazard dams must submit an Emergency Action Plan (EAP-B) to the DEC and to local emergency responders. 6 CRR-NY 608.6(b); 6 CRR-NY 673.7(e).

Class C Dams

Developers of Class C – High Hazard dams must submit an Emergency Action Plan (EAP-C), meeting the requirements of 6 CRR-NY 673.7(f), to the DEC and to local emergency responders. The developer of a Class C dam must have the EAP-C prepared by a New York-licensed engineer or request that the Department waive the professional engineer requirement with respect to some or all components of the EAP. 6 CRR-NY 608.6(b); 6 CRR-NY 673.7(d).

Emergency Action Plan forms and instructions are available at the DEC’s Dam Safety Forms web site.


7-NY-f.12 to 7-NY-f.14 – Review Application Materials for Completeness

Upon receipt, the DEC reviews the developer’s application materials for completeness. If necessary to making a determination of the project’s probable effects on the people and natural resources of the state, the DEC will request that the developer provide additional materials.

7-NY-f.15 to 7-NY-f.16 – Review Application Materials and Supporting Information

Once complete, the DEC reviews the developer’s applications, plans, and other supporting information and determines the probable effect of the dam on the health, safety and welfare of the people and on the natural resources of the state. N.Y. Env. Cons. L. § 15-0503(2); 6 CRR-NY 608.7(a).

7-NY-f.17 – Does the DEC Approve the Developer’s Application for an Article 15 Dam Construction Permit?

When the DEC’s review of the developer’s application is complete, the DEC may choose to:

  1. Deny the permit;
  2. Grant the permit, approving the manner and extent to which alterations are proposed to be made to water resources of the State; or
  3. Grant the permit with conditions as necessary to protect the health, safety, or welfare of the people of the State, and its natural resources.

N.Y. Env. Cons. L. § 15-0503(2)(b); 6 CRR-NY 608.7(a).

7-NY-f.18 to 7-NY-f.20 – Will the Developer Seek Review of the DEC’s Determination?

If the DEC denies the developer’s application for an Article 15 Dam Construction Permit, the developer may request review of the determination pursuant to article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules. N.Y. Env. Cons. L. § 15-0515.

7-NY-f.21 - Article 15 Dam Construction Permit

If the DEC approves the developer’s request and issues an Article 15 Dam Construction Permit, the DEC may require the developer to post a bond and may condition the permit upon compliance with the permit conditions. N.Y. Env. Cons. L. § 15-0503(2)(b); N.Y. Env. Cons. L. § 15-0509.

Once the dam is substantially complete and built according to the approved design, the DEC assigns the final hazard classification. The developer must operate and maintain the dam and all appurtenant structures in a safe condition and in accordance with any regulations promulgated by the Commissioner in accordance with N.Y. Env. Cons. L. § 15-0507.




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