MDE’s Dam Safety Program ensures all dams in Maryland are designed, constructed, operated and maintained safely to prevent dam failures and the consequences of failure. MDE’s responsibilities include conducting inspections of dams based on their "hazard class," issuing permits for construction, repairs or for modifying dam structures; conducting construction inspections and working with dam owners and emergency management professionals to develop and exercise 'Emergency Action Plan' to be used in the event of dam failure. Fact Sheets on MDE's Dam Safety program may be downloaded below:
National Dam Safety Awareness Day
What is a Dam?
Hazard Classification of Dams
Dam Safety Division
Little Seneca Dam, pictured above, is an earth fill embankment dam that provides recreation and supplemental releases to the Potomac River during low flow conditions on the Potomac River.
A dam is defined as any obstruction, wall, or embankment, together with its abutments and appurtenant works, constructed for the purpose of storing water. Dams may be constructed of earth, concrete, wood or rock. Most dams in Maryland consist of an earthen embankment to store water and a combination of spillways designed to pass water safely around or through the facility.
Dams can provide many benefits for Maryland's citizens including water supply, flood control, hydroelectric power, fishing and recreation. However, dams can also be a great threat to the safety and well being of downstream property and people if they are not properly constructed or maintained. The State of Maryland has been assuring the safety of dams since 1934 through a permit and inspection program. The laws governing dam safety are administered by MDE’s Dam Safety Division.
There are nearly 600 dams in the Maryland Dam Inventory, ranging in height from six to 296 feet. In addition, there are many thousands of small dams that do not meet the criteria for inclusion in the Maryland Dam Inventory. There are no natural lakes or ponds in the State of Maryland, so all bodies of water exist due to a dam constructed by man or nature (beavers, coastal deposition).
The majority of Maryland's dams are earth fill or earth and rock fill embankment dams such as Savage River Dam. There are also several large concrete and "slab and buttress" dams that provide storage for drinking water such as Liberty Dam, Prettyboy Dam and Brighton Dam.
The Dam Safety Division maintains the Maryland Dam Inventory database, and has developed a KMZ file with selected information from the database for use by the public. The KMZ file can be downloaded and viewed in software such as Google Earth.
Download Maryland Dam Inventory KMZ
While the Dam Safety Division makes every effort to maintain an accurate database, this data should not be solely relied upon for emergency decision-making or engineering design purposes. All data, including the dam location and hazard classification must be field verified by the user. The presence or absence of a dam in this inventory does not indicate its regulatory status. All corrections to the inventory should be submitted to the Department's Dam Safety Division with supporting information as soon as changes are known. The data was last updated on February 6, 2019.
For more information, you may contact our technical staff, as follows:
Hal Van Aller, P.E., Division Chief
Visty Dalal, (Engineering Geologist)
Charlie Wallis, P.E. (Civil Engineer)
John Roche, P.E. (Geotechnical Engineer)
Anna Sobilo-Ryzner (Environmental Engineer)
Scott Bass, P.E., (Hydrology & Hydraulics Engineer)
Kelly Flint, P.E., (Civil Engineer)
You may also call us at (410) 537-3538. Our mailing address is:
Dam Safety DivisionWater and Science AdministrationMaryland Department of the Environment1800 Washington Boulevard, Ste. 440Baltimore, Maryland 21230-1708
1800 Washington Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21230