A Dillon Dam security solution? | VailDaily.com

A Dillon Dam security solution?

Summit County, CO Colorado
Summit Daily file photo/Mark Fox

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado – More than a year after Dillon Dam Road’s closure due to unspecified terror threats and the ensuing public outcry, restrictions remain intact as local governments work with Denver Water toward a long-term solution.

Members of a security task force are reviewing a recent, confidential assessment of the dam’s potential as a terror target while State Rep. Christine Scanlan lobbies for federal dollars to create a permanent security solution.

Scanlan, a Democrat whose district includes the Vail Valey, said the existing “Band-Aid” fix of security guards, limited hours, barriers and buoys calls for a permanent solution.

“What we have going on isn’t, over the long term, going to make a lot of sense,” she said, adding that improvements upwards of $20 million could be a “perfect fit” for U.S. Department of Homeland Security money.

But a long-term solution hasn’t been defined – at least not publicly – and members of the task force are wary of speculating.

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The 231-foot-high earthen dam structure holds 83 billion gallons of water just above Silverthorne and Interstate 70 and is a significant link in Denver’s water supply.

Frisco, Dillon, Silverthorne and Summit County government, as well as Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue, pooled money with Denver Water earlier this year for a vulnerability assessment of the dam.

In July 2008, Denver Water irked local residents and governments when it unexpectedly shut down the Dam Road to public access. The road was opened shortly thereafter, but with limited hours and added security measures.

General Mason Whitney, director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security, said that at the time there was no mechanism in place to create partnerships between local entities and the owners of such structures as the dam.

The Colorado Rubicon Team of Colorado State Patrol had completed a classified dam assessment, and Denver Water received the results.

“The problem we have is that any time there is protected information, people that have that (have access to) that information tend not to want to release it,” Whitney said.

A program called the “Colorado Automated Critical Asset Management System” was created to bridge such gaps and help keep first responders privy to vulnerabilities.

“I think Lake Dillon Dam could have been done a lot better if (we) had the processes in place,” Whitney said.

Summit County Sheriff John Minor has since said communication has improved. As part of the task force, he and the county government are studying the recent assessment to figure the next step.

“I want to balance security with public access,” he said. “And I want (the dam) open 24/7.”

More than $1 million has been invested in security for the dam so far, according to Denver Water spokeswoman Stacy Chesney.

There have been no known attack attempts to date, she said.

The dam is apparently on a national list of “Protected Critical Infrastructure Information,” along with hundreds of other structures, bridges, utilities, events centers and more that are part of the homeland security strategy.

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