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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: February 28, 2019 04:05 PM
From: Representative Keith Gillespie
To: All House members
Subject: Safety and Marking of Low-Head Dams
In the near future, I will introduce legislation that increases public safety by strengthening the PA Fish and Boat Commission’s (PFBC) ability to enforce the marking of low head or run-of-the-river dams.

Forty-nine individuals have lost their lives in dam-related boating accidents since 1989. Most of these accidents take place near low head dams – small, private or municipally-owned structures that span the entire width of a waterway. There are over 300 of these dams across the Commonwealth, many originally constructed to support a local mill or factory and are now obsolete. Boaters are often caught in the dangerous hydraulic boil behind the structure, which is often referred to as a “drowning machine.” You may remember the tragic incident last spring at the Dock Street Dam in Harrisburg, when a mother and daughter tragically drowned after their boat ran into the base of the dam and capsized.

The PFBC is charged with ensuring low head dams are properly marked both upstream and downstream with signage and buoys. Currently, the only way to enforce these provisions is through a civil process, which is prolonged, costly and often ineffective.

My legislation would allow the PFBC to directly issue citations to owners who fail to mark their dams. It would also update the definition of run-of-the-river dams to ensure every one of these structures is adequately marked for public safety.

Please join me in cosponsoring this important legislation.

Introduced as HB1003