UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An analysis of the legal implications of engineering responses to selected dam owner issues Joyner, Jay B.


Some key aspects of the legal regime within which dam owners operate are examined, particularly as the law impacts on five specific technical dam-related issues: dam safety, water quality, emergency planning, debris management, and fish habitat creation. The thesis reviews the general legal environment including important statutory requirements and common law obligations arising from riparian rights, nuisance, negligence, and strict liability. Approaches to dam safety decision making, including prescriptive standards and risk analysis, lead to the conclusion that prescriptive standards offer greater legal certainty than risk analysis as a basis for dam safety planning. A n examination of the effect of dams on water quality and riparian rights indicates that changes in sediment and nutrient loads, temperature, and dissolved oxygen might form a basis for legal action by riparian owners. Possible changes to current emergency planning practice suggest that a proposed regulatory change in British Columbia will impose significant new obligations on dam owners. An examination of debris management practices concludes that dam owners have a duty of care with respect to some debris in the reservoir and with respect to collected but escaped debris that passes the dam. Finally, newly created fish habitat is subject to the same legal obligations as existing habitat. Deliberately created habitat may also create liability exposure if it becomes debris during a flood.

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