KUSA - 9Wants to Know rode along with a team of civil engineers conducting emergency inspections of flood-affected dams. The state identified 200 dams that needed to be inspected over a 10-day period.
9Wants to Know has been investigating how the state and federal governments are working to repair the roads, bridges and dams that were put to the test during September's massive storms. 9wants to Know reporter Melissa Blasius joined a crew Wednesday as it scrutinized the dams in the Red Feather Lakes area of Larimer County. Many of the emergency dam inspectors are civil engineers from private companies who volunteered to assist the state.
Dam safety experts say critical dams protecting neighborhoods, industrial areas, and populations are designed to withstand the "maximum possible flood". They say smaller dams in Colorado are usually designed to withstand a 100-year flood, but some areas were inundated beyond that level.
RECENT COLORADO FLOODING STORIES
"Big Elk Meadows near Allenspark is where we got hit really hard," said Colorado dam safety engineer Kallie Bauer. "There were five dams in a row, and they were cascading down, and they got a lot more water than they could handle."
Bauer says at least nine small dams were breached during the flooding. She says inspectors have found minor damage to some other dams, but that damage does not impact the dams' overall safety.
"Our dams have performed really well," said Bauer.
As of Thursday, inspectors had completed 89 condition assessments. The Colorado Department of Natural Resources' Dam Safety Branch says 62 reports show no damage. There are 24 reports of some minor damage that is not a safety concern. There are 2 condition reports that need follow-up from dam engineers; however, the conditions are described as low hazard. State officials hope those results will alleviate people's worries about dam failures.
The state's Dam Safety Branch regulates and inspects nearly 2000 dams in Colorado. Inspection frequency is based on hazard level, which indicates the potential damage that would be caused by a dam failure. The state classifies 373 dams as high hazard, 333 as significant hazard and 1028 as low hazard. Nearly 250 dams inspected are considered to pose no public hazard.
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