Craig: Dam Road security a nod to fear
September 22, 2010
What has happened to our beloved Dam Road? For some time now, it has been taken over by an incompetent and bureaucratic Denver Water Board that has blithely used their regulatory oversight and routinely ignored the pressing needs of local communities. And just what precipitated this usurpation of local control? The answer lies in the fear mongering instilled by the Bush administration.
You may recall that the Denver Water Board originally closed the Dam Road to traffic in 2008 after a couple of young men were caught filming a video atop the dam. Though they refused to disclose any information about how this signaled any sort of terrorist plot (the men were eventually released without criminal charges), it was only after the county filed a lawsuit citing local safety concerns about closing the road that a compromise was reached allowing some traffic during prescribed hours.
Though Denver Water did finally compromise, their approach is still preposterous. What have they really done to make the dam any safer? I watched the other day as a boat trailer was prevented from using the dam road while large, flat-bed trucks were allowed to pass. Let’s face it: If someone wants to attack the dam or the water supply, this policy will do little to stop them. If pickup trucks are allowed access, they could certainly carry enough explosive to get the job done. Likewise, my wife and I recently laughed at the ring of buoys around the dam. This ring is so close to the dam itself that no one could take any measures to prevent an attack once the area is breached, rendering the buoys entirely ineffectual.
Most experts, however, suggest that the most likely attack would be on the water supply. Still, boats that could contain more than a sufficient load of contaminant are routinely allowed access to the reservoir without a security check. I am hardly a criminal mastermind, but it should seem clear that if a terrorist cell really thinks they are going to send shock waves through the American public by attacking our little reservoir, the steps Denver Water has taken sure as heck isn’t going to stop them.
So what is this really all about? Fear mongering. The Bush administration used our fear of a federal attack to convince us why it was necessary to forsake our civil liberties to prevent terrorism. As devastating as the 9/11 attacks were, they killed approximately 3000 people, not much more than are killed by handguns each month in the United States. I taught a Holocaust course years ago, and as part of the class, we had a remarkable opportunity to dialogue regularly with students in Israel via email. What struck me about these conversations was the degree to which these people deal with the imminent threat of a terrorist attack every waking moment yet somehow manage to live their life with reason and dignity.
Perhaps we could take a lesson from their experience. In the end, the terrorists don’t have to attack the Dillon reservoir, the Pentagon, or anything else. They envy and begrudge our freedom and civil liberties. Their attack on these notions has already succeeded. When we close our roads, allow our phones to be wire tapped, and eliminate the rights of detainees who are not even charged with a crime, they have accomplished their mission of taking away what is best about our society and distinguishes our culture from theirs. If we want to strip the terrorists of their real power, we must not allow fear to trump the civil rights that made this country a shining symbol to the world in the first place.
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Steven is a Silverthorne resident, educator, husband and father of two, and vice-president of the Summit County Library Board. He can be reached at: email@example.com