CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A state official says many of West Virginia's aging watershed dams don't meet current design standards and need repairs.
But the West Virginia Conservation Agency doesn't have the resources to address the issue, said Brian Farkas, the agency's executive director.
There are 170 watershed dams in the state and about 100 don't meet current design standards. The oldest dam, built in 1954, is located near Keyser. Another 41 are more than 50 years old, he said.
Farkas' comments came Wednesday during a legislative interim meeting, the Charleston Daily Mail reported Thursday.
He told lawmakers that all but one dam are designated as "high hazard." That means loss of life and high property damage are likely if the dams should fail.
No state dams are in danger of failing, he said.
"Don't walk out of this meeting thinking I'm saying, 'The sky is falling,'" Farkas said.
Typical problems include erosion and slips, deteriorating metals, plugged drains and encroachments on easements.
"The older something gets, the more maintenance you need to keep it operating the way it was designed to operate," Farkas said.
The state might have to buy some properties where homes and businesses have been built in easements. But the Conservation Agency often does not know where the easements are located. It is beginning to research easements at county courthouses to determine what it owns and what it doesn't own, Farkas said.
Engineers would have to review the dams to determine the cost of repairs and to prioritize projects. The Conservation Agency has asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help prioritize repairs, Farkas said.
Basic work such as removing debris, painting metalwork, cutting the grass and correcting minor erosion issues would cost about $2.6 million. The Conservation Agency's annual budget is $440,000, funded from state and local sources.
At least one watershed dam is located in 26 of the state's 55 counties.