Dillon Dam Road reopens
Summit County Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado ” Denver Water officials reopened the Dillon Dam Road Friday afternoon with nightly restrictions, relenting to public outcry in Summit County and pressure from local officials.
Under an agreement struck with local officials Friday, the utility, in efforts to tighten security, will close the road each night and prohibit trucks and large vehicles on the half-mile-long dam.
A line of cars waited for the gates to be opened by dozens of law-enforcement officials. Motorists and motorcyclists drove across the road with glee, honking their horns, stabbing the sky with their fists and jubilantly shouting their approval.
“About two weeks ago, we stood in this same place to tell [the public] we would work tirelessly to reopen the road,” said Summit County Commissioner Thomas Davidson. “This is the first step. Relatively speaking, to get this done in less than three weeks with an entity like Denver Water is truly a success.”
Davidson added that he didn’t think the road should have been closed in the first place, but he is proud of the way county officials conducted themselves.
Under what was called a “short-term agreement,” the road will be closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily, and traffic will be limited to passenger vehicles and pickup trucks.
Emergency vehicles will have 24-hour access and may have remotes to control the gates.
For the next 30 days, officers will monitor both sides of the road, and eventually a gate of some kind will be installed to make sure that only vehicles smaller than 13,000 pounds may pass.
Larger trucks, RVs and commercial vehicles will be barred, in a nod toward concerns over the possibility that larger vehicles could be used to damage the dam.
“The recommendations strike a balance between public access and dam security by mitigating vulnerabilities based on most probable threats and possible consequences,” said Maj. Gen. Mason Whitney, the head of the state’s Homeland Security office, who facilitated the discussions between county entities and Denver Water.
Friday afternoon, Denver Water officials and the county commissioners signed an agreement that was drafted over the last week to open the road while ensuring the safety of the dam.
The agreement states that the county, towns, law-enforcement officials, emergency services and Denver Water will share information about risks and that all security decisions will be made after consultation.
“Denver Water is removing their barricades. They will not unilaterally close the road again,” said Commissioner Tom Long.
With only a few hours’ warning to local officials, Denver Water officials abruptly closed the road on July 8, citing unspecified security concerns but insisting there were no specific threats against the dam.
If the dam was ever compromised, it would release as much as 245,000 acre-feet of water towards Silverthorne, affecting hundreds of homes, businesses and Interstate 70.
One of only three east-west byways in the county, the sheriff’s office estimates 8,500 cars traveled the road each day before the closure.
On July 11, five county entities sued Denver Water to force the re-opening of the road, leading to the negotiations that resulted in Friday’s breakthrough.
The two sides will set aside the litigation and have agreed to form a task force to examine dam security and form intermediate- and long-term security policies.