IDNR Proposes Fees for Dam Permitting

March 2013 – Municipalities, developers and others in need of dam permits will have little choice but to pay new fees.  Permitting of Illinois dams up to now has not required the submission of a permit fee.  But the Illinois Department of Natural Resources-Office of Water Resources (IDNR-OWR), which regulates and issues permits for dams within the state, is proposing legislative changes that will implement a fee structure for permitting of dams.  The proposed legislation could become law as early as July.

The IDNR-OWR classifies dams as Class I (high hazard), Class II (moderate hazard), and Class III (low hazard).  Within each of these classes, a dam is further categorized as small, intermediate, or large, based on its height and impounding capacity.

The proposed fees range from $500 for an initial review, to $1,000 for an operating authorization for an existing dam, to $4,500 for construction of a new Class I or Class II dam.

If the law goes into effect as currently proposed, these fees will be subject to an annual escalation adjustment based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index Table, which is something new for state agencies in relation to permits.  The IDNR-OWR proposal may be the start of a new trend among cash-strapped state agencies looking for new ways to raise revenue, both in Illinois and in other states.

The water impounded by a dam represents a large amount of potential energy that, if catastrophically released, can pose significant hazards to the lives and property downstream of the dam.  Thus it is important that dams be designed correctly and inspected regularly to assure their continued stability.  The IDNR-OWR permit process helps assure that these requirements are met, and therefore that the public welfare is protected. 

TWM has designed and secured permits for all three classes of dams, from simple Class III to the more complex Class I dams, which require complex hydrologic and hydraulic computer modeling and then the analysis of the results to assess rainfall distributions, as well as a dam breach analysis, which computes water surface elevations in the event that a dam structure should ever fail.