Floods Could Mean Changes for Small Dams

Sep 24, 2013

Officials are also reviewing dams along the Front Range. The state agency in charge of dam safety says all of the high risk ones did well during recent flooding -- those are dams where a lot of people could get hurt if they fail. But several smaller dams weren’t able to handle the record amount of rain. Bill McCormick oversees dam safety for Colorado. He says this could end up affecting how dams on the Western Slope are managed.

Bill McCormick: “I know that the Aspen area is like the Estes Park area, where lots of people like to have their little ponds and their little dams because they look really nice and they can go fishing on their property, but since they’re not designed to the same standard as the bigger ones, we’re finding that they might create a bigger hazard than we would have thought before.”

Reporter: For example, engineers have been inspecting dams on the Front Range after the major flooding. An engineer in the Estes Park area spotted small dam that ended up being a real danger.

Bill McCormick: “There was a dam, a private dam, at a little resort that was sitting up just above Highway 7. And he went up and looked at it, and it was within six inches of spilling. If another rain happened it was going to overtop and fail and probably take out Highway 7, and cut off access to Estes Park again.”

Reporter: The engineer rallied other workers and equipment to the area, to make the dam strong enough to withstand the next storm… and got done just in time. Bill McCormick says the state is taking a detailed look at the small dams that did fail during the Front Range floods… that could lead to doing things differently with small dams in the Roaring Fork Valley and other parts of the Western Slope.