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Investigation rates four El Paso County dams as ‘unsatisfactory’

A Colorado dam safety chief confirmed Monday that a recent investigation by the Associated Press found four dams in El Paso County to be at high risk of failure.

The AP investigation ranked nearly 1,700 dams nationwide -- and 24 in Colorado -- as being in unsatisfactory condition, potentially placing lives and property downstream at risk.

But Bill McCormick, chief of dam safety for the Colorado Division of Water Resources, said downstream residents of the four local dams cited have no serious cause for concern.

"Those dams either no longer hold water, have been repaired or soon will be," he said. "The high risk designation refers to the potential of what could happen if a dam failed, but the failure of those dams is unlikely."

Among the four dams cited, two are in Garden of the Gods; the Valley No. 1 and No. 2 dams.

"They were part of an irrigation system set up by Gen. Palmer (the founder of Colorado Springs)," McCormick said. "They no longer hold water but there's a risk to lower Camp Creek and the Pleasant Valley area if they get filled by a historic rainstorm."

Another dam cited is the South Lake Dam, commonly known as Quail Lake.

"It was built in the 1960s and was seeping water," McCormick said. "It didn't have a modern defense system. We limited the storage level until repairs were completed last year, and it's in good shape now. It should be off the list soon."

The city owns all three dams.

The final local dam in question is the Teller Dam, on Fort Carson near the Pueblo County line, built by a private landowner in 1909 and acquired by the Army in 1966.

"It was originally built for irrigation," McCormick said. "It only occasionally has water. A project will be starting soon to control seepage there."

All four dams are earthen dams in which seepage is a natural phenomenon. McCormick said.

"If anything were to happen, part of the existing disaster plan is to alert people downstream and evacuate them as soon as possible," he said.

Heather Morgan, who lives in Pleasant Valley, said she's not aware of any such plan.

"If something like that is in place, it would be nice for us to know about," she said. "I've only seen water in the Valley reservoirs a couple of times in the 11 years I've lived here. But it's a cause for concern if we get a lot of rain."

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Scott Harrison

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3 Comments

  1. Investigation rates four El Paso County dams as ‘unsatisfactory’

    They must have only been looking at the dams, otherwise article would have read:

    Investigation rates four El Paso County as ‘unsatisfactory’

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