Colorado dam update

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

A review of state dam safety records also shows that a breach at any of 21 “high hazard” dams today likely would kill people living or working nearby. Failures at another 33 deficient “significant hazard” dams would cause major property damage. But dam repairs can cost millions of dollars, and Colorado Department of Natural Resources officials say they lack funds to help owners make repairs…

Over the past five years, state water officials loaned dam owners $50.8 million to complete 35 dam rehabilitation projects. Lawmakers since 2009 have siphoned $120 million in state water-project funds to help deal with budget shortfalls. Now officials are bracing for cuts that they say will limit support for dam repairs…

There are more than 1,900 dams around the state, giving a capacity to store 7.5 million acre-feet of water. Those dams range from earthen berms built 100 years ago at isolated agricultural sites to the large urban-area structures constructed during the 1950s and 1960s to enable rapid population growth.

More than 50 major dams are located at federal facilities run by the Bureau of Reclamation. Federal engineers are investigating possible problems at six of those dams — Twin Lakes, Green Mountain, Granby, Mary’s Lake, Ruedi, and Ridgeway, said Bureau of Reclamation spokesman Peter Soeth…

The most problems have built up at dams that a dozen or so state inspectors oversee. The latest data indicate 176 dams are so deficient that restrictions were imposed to prevent blow-outs. That number is up 8 percent since 2009, when state inspectors deemed 163 dams deficient. The overall result is a loss of the capacity to store 117,000 acre-feet of water. By comparison, Chatfield Reservoir southwest of Denver stores 27,000 acre-feet of water. Denver Water’s Cheesman Reservoir holds about 75,000 acre-feet. “There’s no question, if we can use existing structures to beef up and support our water supply, that’s a better way to go,” said Alex Davis, assistant director of natural resources…

Dam and reservoir operators often lack the ability to deliver water to current water users. And lining up ownership rights for water to put in reservoirs — such as Parker’s massive new Rueter-Hess reservoir — has proved increasingly difficult…

It cost suburban water authorities and farmers $32.5 million to rehabilitate the ailing Standley reservoir dam where, if a breach had occurred, more than 100,000 west metro area residents would have faced harm.

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Colorado dam safety overseers say they face about a dozen security incidents each month at water storage facilities around the state. These range from reports of suspicious activity, such as a person spotted on a downstream face of a dam taking photos, to people threatening to blow up dams with explosives, said Mark Haynes, chief of dam safety in the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “On a weekly basis, I get about three or four suspicious-activity reports,” Haynes said.

More infrastructure coverage here.

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