House votes to increase safety around low-head dams

Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The Pennsylvania House has voted to give the Fish and Boat Commission more power to enforce the marking of low-head dams.

Rep. Keith Gillespie (R-York) said his proposal, House Bill 1003, allows the commission to directly issue citations to owners who fail to mark dams.

He said currently, the only way to enforce dam markings is through a prolonged, costly and often ineffective civil process.

Gillespie said 49 people 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,” he said in a statement.

Gillespie said there are over 300 low-head dams across Pennsylvania, many originally constructed to support a 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.’ It’s far past time to strengthen our warnings for these dangerous structures and protect those who take advantage of the recreational opportunities that Pennsylvania’s rivers offer,” he said.

The bill goes to the state Senate for its consideration.

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