Dillon dam security over the top? | AspenTimes.com

Dillon dam security over the top?

Ashley Dickson
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
The Blue River emerges from the Dillon dam in Silverthorne. The dam is vulnerable to attack, officials say, and suspicious activity caused the recent closure of the road that crosses the top of the dam. (Mark Fox/Summit Daily)

SUMMIT COUNTY “The ongoing closure of the Dillon Dam Road due to suspicious activity has many Summit County residents scratching their heads asking the same question: What was that all about?

Summit County and Denver Water Board officials closed the road that crosses the dam that forms Dillon Reservoir after two men were found filming a music video last week on the already-closed road. Given that the suspicious activity occurred at a primary reservoir storage facility, authorities were forced to close the road and approach the incident as a possible Homeland Security threat.

The road remained closed for more than five days and the lack of up-to-date information had some local residents wondering if there was more to the story.

“I think there is a big disconnect between two guys filming a music video and a terrorist attack,” local Brain Aleinikoff said. “I don’t understand how it could be enough to close the road for that long.”

Others thought authorities were creating something out of nothing.

Since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, however, public infrastructure, including dams, tunnels and power stations, have had to bump up security measures in response to potential threats to public safety.

“After 9/11, we were forced to look at any and all critical infrastructures that may be at risk,” said Summit County Undersheriff Derek Woodman. “The Dillon Dam is without question a critical infrastructure, as well as the Eisenhower Tunnel. If something were to happen with the dam, there would be substantial repercussions.”

The idea that Summit County could be susceptible to a terrorist attack may seem far-fetched to some, the danger exists, even in small mountain towns, authorities say.

“We need to be more vigilant on potential terrorist activity and realize that there are many different kinds of terrorism,” Woodman said.

For many, the word terrorism conjures up images of massive explosions, suicide bombers and biological warfare ” distant concerns for many Summit County residents.

Yet, the threat of alternative forms of terrorism is nothing new. On Oct. 19, 1998, four members of the Earth Liberation Front, an eco-defense group dedicated to ending environmental destruction, set fire to the Two Elks Lodge on Vail Mountain, causing an estimated $12 million worth of damage.

“Eco-terrorism in this region is by far more substantial than any other forms,” said Woodman. “Many times people perceive eco-terrorism as nonviolent, but there are plenty of human threats.”

What many have been able to take away from the Dillon Dam Road closure is the fact that threats to public safety can happen anywhere.

“We have to trust the people in charge to make the necessary decisions to protect us,” said Andy Schultz, a Breckenridge resident for more than 10 years.

“Unfortunately the world is not as safe as it used to be and we need to realize that these threats really can happen anywhere.”

The Dillon Dam Road remains closed pending the final decision from local authorities and the Denver Water Board. Officials have stated the road could reopen as early as Wednesday, and will definitely be open by Friday at the very latest.

Calls to the Denver Water Board on Tuesday were not returned.


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