Dillon Dam Road barriers to go active in a couple weeks | VailDaily.com

Dillon Dam Road barriers to go active in a couple weeks

Robert Allen
rallen@summitdaily.com
Summit County, Colorado
Summit Daily file photo/Mark FoxLaw enforcement and emergency personnel responded to an incident last December on the Dam Road when a barrier was engaged, causing a motorist to slam into it, totaling his vehicle.
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SUMMIT COUNTY ” The automated protective barriers sitting dormant on Dillon Dam Road since December could become active again in the next couple of weeks, said Denver Water spokeswoman Stacy Chesney.

Law-enforcement officers stopped guarding either end of Dillon Dam last fall, and Denver Water security has been the primary daytime defense against a potential attack on the 231-foot-high earthen structure holding Dillon Reservoir’s 83 billion gallons of water.

The security people do not have authority to pull over a vehicle.

“Our rule is that if we are in a position to safely stop traffic to prevent an oversized vehicle from violating these ordinance(s), we will attempt to do so,” according to an e-mail from Chesney.

She said that if the vehicle cannot be safely stopped, it will be identified, and the security people will notify local police to conduct a traffic stop.

Since its closure in July 2008 and an ensuing public outcry, the road is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Vehicles such as dump trucks, semi-trucks and large delivery vans have been prohibited from the road.

But some residents still feel the security measures are a waste of time and resources.

“I personally think everything in place right now is pretty silly. It doesn’t serve any purpose at all,” said Gary Lindstrom, former Summit County commissioner and emergency manager.

Chesney said the barriers are to be reactivated following training of local agencies on emergency procedures ” and connection of Denver Water to law enforcement and other agencies via radio.

“All that’s left to be done is a final double-checking ” I’s dotted, T’s crossed ” and once everyone signs up we’ll be able to make the barriers active,” Chesney said.

Summit County Sheriff John Minor said the radio connection will help local law enforcement better work with Denver Water to respond to emergencies.

“Our relationship has vastly improved with Denver Water,” he said, adding that the intention is to “balance security needs with public access.”

Summit County town governments, county commissioners and the Lake Dillon Fire-Protection District filed a lawsuit to reopen the Dam Road after the water utility arbitrarily closed it last summer. The suit was dropped in December.

Also in December, the automatic barrier installed by Denver Water malfunctioned and popped up to destroy the bumper of a Honda Odyssey minivan ” which fortunately was driving less than

5 mph. The barrier was apparently deactivated after that incident.

Minor said the improved barriers “appear to be state-of-the-art technology; we shall see.”

Local agencies recently had an opportunity to check the new barrier system, he said.

“Police, fire, everyone walked through the barriers and checked them. They certainly seemed OK to us,” Minor said. “The last thing anybody wants is for anybody to get in a wreck or get hurt.”

Routine meetings held among the utility and agencies since the closure have led to a positive relationship, he said.

Chesney said that following the barriers’ reactivation, a vulnerability assessment is to be conducted to address long-term concerns.

But Lindstrom said he’s certain the dam isn’t a priority on terrorist hit lists and that paranoia is a factor in Denver Water’s decisions.

“If al-Qaeda or terrorists are going to blow something up, the last place they’re going to blow something up is Dillon Dam,” he said, adding that they’d likely hit higher-profile places with more people ” similar to the attack on the World Trade Center buildings in New York City.

As a Breckenridge resident who’s been teaching classes at the Colorado Mountain College site in Dillon, Lindstrom feels irritated when he drives over the road a few times each week.

“It’s making someone feel good,” he said of the security measures. “I have no idea who it is, but it’s probably emotionally satisfying for somebody at Denver Water Board (to know there’s someone to) watch the cars going by.”

Minor said law enforcement and security businesses have a responsibility to be aware of the issues presented by such structures as large dams, airports or nuclear plants.

“Let’s be honest: It’s a bloody big dam with a road going across the top of it,” he said. “In the world we live in today, we must always be cognizant of critical infrastructure.”

Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or