Summit County's delegation to the statehouse on Tuesday vowed to introduce a bill prohibiting Denver Water from unilaterally closing the Dillon Dam Road to avoid any future clashes over control of the byway.
State Sen. Dan Gibbs and Rep. Christine Scanlan, both Democrats, said they wanted to encourage greater communication between local agencies and Denver Water after the utility abruptly shut down the road based on security concerns, raising the ire of local residents and officials.
"Now that this most recent episode is behind us, we need to make sure this community and others throughout the state do not ever have the same experience again," Gibbs said.
Denver Water closed the road June 8, citing unspecified security concerns that came to light after the agency conducted a vulnerability assessment on the dam.
Local agencies were unable to view the assessment, and the sudden move to close the road quickly generated a mass public outcry, prompting local entities to file suit against the water utility on July 11.
Last Friday, Denver Water conceded to the demands of local agencies and signed an agreement with the county commissioners that would allow passenger vehicles on the road between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
The first legislative proposal would ensure that there is never a unilateral decision to close the road without first consulting local officials, and would require that local agencies and emergency responders are given advanced notice of any closure.
"Unless there is an imminent threat, emergency responders and public-safety workers need time to create and install back-up plans," Gibbs said. "We saw first-hand what happens when local first responders aren't given the appropriate forewarning."
The second proposal would require agencies that conduct broad threat assessments to share the most relevant results with the appropriate local officials, including emergency responders.
"What is still wrong here is that the results of Denver Water's vulnerability assessments were never disclosed to us," Summit County Sheriff John Minor said. "Those assessments were funded by the taxpayers, so it makes no sense to me that the information has yet to be shared."
Officials from Denver Water were not included in drafting the proposed legislation, but after learning of the proposals on Tuesday, the utility agreed that in the future, cooperation with local agencies is paramount.
"The Dillon Dam security task force that has been created will share and analyze all information about security risks," Denver Water spokesperson Stacy Chesney said. "And future security decisions regarding the Dam Road will be made after consultation among all parties."
Gibbs and Scanlan " both of whom are running for re-election " on Tuesday applauded the community's involvement in demanding that the road be re-opened.
As Summit County residents themselves, they said they both began brainstorming legislative options as soon as Denver Water closed the road.
"The most appropriate way to combat threats is by increasing preparedness and cooperation," Scanlan said. "Unfortunately, we have learned the hard way that the proper protocols for achieving a high level partnership are simply not in place right now. Hopefully, these two proposals will help us get a little closer."
Ashley Dickson can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.