New Jersey has experienced a number of dam failures since the State Water Policy Commission began keeping records in the early 1900's.
Dam failures can occur suddenly, without warning, and may occur during normal operating conditions. This is referred to as a "sunny-day" failure.
One such failure is the November 1927 failure of the Sarubbi Dam in Morris County. The sudden loss of concrete sections caused this dam to fail in November 1927.
Dam failures may also occur during a large storm event. Significant rainfall can quickly inundate an area and cause flood waters to overwhelm reservoir. If the spillway of the dam cannot safely pass the resulting flows, water will begin flowing in areas not designed for such flows and a failure may occur.
An example of an overtopping failure during a large storm event is the Tomahawk Lake Dam in Byram Township, Sussex County. This dam failed during a large storm event on August 11, 2000.
Click on the link(s) below to view storm data and resulting damage:
Over the years, New Jersey has seen significant property damage including damage or loss of dams, bridges, roads and buildings as a result of such storm events and dam failures.
The best way to mitigate the negative effects resulting from dam failures is through the proper construction, maintenance and operation of dams including maintaining and updating a current Emergency Action Plan for the dam.
To that end, the Department's Division of Dam Safety & Flood Engineering administers the New Jersey Dam Safety Standards (N.J.A.C. 7:20) as well as the Safe Dam Act (N.J.S.A. 58-4).