Water resource engineers at Murphey Candler Dam this month are coming up with an emergency plan should the dam break.

Photos by city of Brookhaven.

Because Murphey Candler Dam, built in 1953, is classified as a Category I High Hazard Dam by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Safe Dams Program, a Emergency Action Plan (EAP) as required by state law. The plan must be completed by July, according to a city press release. The city has contracted with Dewberry Consultants LLC to produce the EAP for the Murphey Candler Dam.

“All indications at this point are that the dam is perfectly safe, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Brookhaven Emergency Management Coordinator Paul White in the release. “An emergency action plan is not only a legal requirement, but it is also good public policy.”

The EAP began in April and includes dam breach modeling, inundation zone limits mapping, periodic inspection scheduling, as well as maintenance and emergency notification procedures.

The state Safe Dams Program lists more than 40 dams in Brookhaven, Buckhead, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs, most built decades ago during a boom in suburban leisure lakes and still the responsibility of private owners. The state categorizes 11 of those local dams as “high hazard,” meaning that if they were to fail, the flood likely would kill people downstream.

The “high-hazard” category is based on the size and location of the dam, not its current condition. Statewide, 474 dams are currently categorized as high-hazard. Some of the local high-hazard dams are well-known and publicly owned, like the lake in Brookhaven’s Murphey Candler Park. But many dams impound private lakes hidden behind back yards and possibly unknown to neighbors living downstream.