1999 – Dam Safety in a Corporate Environment

Garry Meinck, Chris Elliott and Tony Moulds

This paper describes the experiences of a former state statutory authority in the almost four years since it became corporatised to form a water utility with a fully commercial orientation and with a new board of management with a clear awareness of the responsibilities of corporate governance.

The need to commit to major remedial work at one of the principal dams focussed the Board’s attention on the safety status of all of the Corporation’s 56 referable dams.
In the absence of external dam safety regulation the Corporation has moved to satisfy its corporate governance responsibilities by adopting current best practice in dam safety. Key elements in this process were:

  • Setting up a high level steering committee, comprising key stakeholders, to manage a dam safety program.
  • Clarifying accountabilities for dam custodianship and technical support.
  • Fully implementing the recommendations of the ANCOLD dam safety management guidelines, with its implications for documentation of procedures, frequency of dam inspections, formal safety reviews and contingency planning.
  •  Communicating the dam safety risk issues to the Board, which has become fully aware and actively interested in the dam safety program.
  • Adopting a policy of early risk reduction aimed at clearing up all known significant dam deficiencies within seven to ten years. The Board has approved in principle a program of capital expenditure potentially amounting to some $150 million over the next seven years,
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