County sues to open Dam Road
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
SUMMIT COUNTY ” Five Summit County entities sued Denver Water on Friday to force the re-opening of the Dillon Dam Road.
The complaint filed in Summit County district court charges Denver Water with improperly closing the road and seeks a permanent injunction to prevent the agency from blocking the route.
Denver Water officials offered little response on Friday.
“We have not yet examined that complaint and are unable to comment on subjects that are matters of pending litigation,” according to a statement from Denver Water spokeswoman Stacy Chesney.
The utility placed barriers along the entrances of the Dam Road late Tuesday evening, stating the organization had received new information about the structure’s vulnerability to unspecified threats.
Yet Denver Water officials also continue to assert that there are no immediate threats against the dam.
A 1974 agreement with the county gives Denver Water the right to halt traffic in emergencies to protect the dam and reservoir.
But in their joint lawsuit, county commissioners, the towns of Frisco, Dillon and Silverthorne and the Lake Dillon Fire-Protection District contend that there is no emergency and that Denver Water overstepped its authority.
“We do not believe that an emergency exists … and therefore Denver Water’s decision to unilaterally close the Dillon Dam Road is simply
unacceptable,” said Summit County Commissioner Thomas Davidson.
The complaint also charges that Denver Water’s decision to close the road was made without consulting any local agencies, a move that sparked uproar from local communities and emergency responders.
The Town of Silverthorne on Friday cited Denver Water’s abrupt actions as “inexcusable,” adding that the organization “did not coordinate in any way, shape, or form with local law-enforcement agencies.”
Denver Water did provide a gap in the barriers to allow access for emergency vehicles, but local emergency-service crews were dissatisfied after delays first recognized during a test run on Thursday were realized in responding to an actual emergency on Friday morning.
Ambulance crews attempting to reach an injured bicyclist on the recreation path adjacent to the closure had to wait for a dam security patrol to open a locked gate.
Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue Chief Dave Parmley said Denver’s roadblocks essentially put emergency responders in the category of potential threats to the dam.
“We just don’t understand why firefighters, paramedics and police officers are included in Denver Water Board’s ‘circle of suspicion,'” he said.
In January, Denver Water officials closed the road for five days after spying some filmmakers on the dam in the middle of a snowstorm, activity that was considered “suspicious.”
But the Federal Bureau of Investigation later determined that no actual threat existed; security on the dam since has been bolstered; and Sheriff John Minor recently confirmed that there is no reason to suspect an imminent threat or state of emergency, according to the lawsuit.
The Dam Road has carried an estimated 8,500 vehicles daily and is one of only three east-west routes across the county.
The lawsuit argues that the harm to the community in closing a well-traveled county road outweighs the risks associated with an unspecific security concern.
Summit County officials contend that the abrupt closure of the road violated a “long-standing bargain” forged when the county took over the road in exchange for allowing construction of the dam.
In seeking a permanent injunction, the local entities are asking a judge to force Denver Water to reopen the road.
The matter was not immediately scheduled for a hearing.
“While we understand that Denver Water needs to be responsive to safety concerns, we also wish that the organization … had worked more cooperatively,” Commissioner Davidson said.
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