Dillon Dam road closure sparks heated debate
Summit County correspondent
Vail CO, Colorado
SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado ” Summit County residents expressed outrage Wednesday as they confronted roadblocks on the Dillon Dam Road, the result of an abrupt decision by the Denver Water Board to close the byway.
“This is outrageous and completely unacceptable,” Silverthorne resident Gary
Konig said. “I have lived in this county for over 40 years, and I never
expected to see something like this. This is going to cause so many
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Denver Water officials closed the road “indefinitely” on Tuesday night after notifying local officials late in the afternoon, citing unspecified security concerns about the earthen dam.
“What gall do they have, what reason, to close down the road without even
notifying anyone in the county,” Silverthorne resident Nancy Roudebush said.
“Do they even realize all they are doing is putting a target on us? All this
is doing is bringing more state and national attention to the dam.”
Closure causes inconveniences, outrage
The Dam Road is one of only three east-west byways in the county, and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office estimates 8,500 vehicles travel across the road each day.
Local-government officials issued a joint press release Tuesday evening excoriating what they considered to be a unilateral move by Denver Water.
“It is of particular concern … that this new information has not been released to any local law-enforcement agency in the county,” the officials wrote. “While Denver Water has promised to provide information to support its decision, that has not yet taken place.”
Denver’s water, Summit County’s concern
The Dillon Reservoir is owned and operated by Denver Water and serves as a primary water source for Denver’s drinking supply.
If the dam ever was compromised, it would release as much as 245,000 acre-feet of water towards Silverthorne, affecting hundreds of homes, businesses and Interstate 70.
Security of water supplies and dams has been the subject of increased scrutiny since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and a perceived threat on the Dam Road in early January prompted Denver Water to close the road for five days and increase security.
In the last seven years, Denver Water has spent more than $10 million enhancing the safety and security of its facilities statewide.
Changes at the Dillon Reservoir have included fencing, barriers, video surveillance and, most recently, a 24-hour security guard.
“Having exhausted other options and still being uncomfortable with the level of risk, we consider road closure the action necessary to best protect the residents of Summit County as well as the water supply,” said Denver Water commissioner Penfield Tate.
Local officials indicated they are considering legal options to keep the road open.
“It’s like getting whacked between the eyes, it was so quickly thrust upon us,” said Summit County manager Gary Martinez. “We now have our attorneys looking at all the documents.”
Some public-access roads across dams in other parts of the country ” New York and California, for example ” also have been closed due to security concerns.
Officials at Denver Water say an alternate road connecting the two sides of the reservoir without crossing over the top of the dam may be the best long-term solution.
The organization has hired an engineering firm to consider potential alternate roads, and are initiating discussions with local jurisdictions.
The bike path across the dam will remain open, according to Denver Water officials.
“If Denver Water is so worried about security then why are they still
allowing bikers and pedestrians across the road?” Silverthorne resident
Katie McDermott asked with obvious frustration. “It would be just as easy
for someone to walk across the dam with a bomb as it would be to drive.”
Watch another video from Wednesday’s press conference with State Senator, Dan Gibbs, Fire Chief, Dave Parmley and Sheriff, John Minor at http://www.summitdaily.com/damroad.