Morgan Liddick: A lesson in politics |

Morgan Liddick: A lesson in politics


So now Summit County residents understand what it means to be victimized by unaccountable government bureaucrats. Doesn’t feel so good, does it? One wonders if this is the sort of thing Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he wrote about “Arbitrary government.”

In deciding to close the Dillon Dam Road to vehicle traffic, Denver Water gave us a perfect example of how not to build public confidence, either in the good intentions of government or in the measures it undertakes. The closure was ostensibly made in reaction to unspecified security concerns based on information provided by unnamed Federal agencies. But these concerns were apparently not revealed to, nor dissected with Summit County officials. Nor were the effects of the closure, both in terms of emergency services and in its economic impact, ever bruited about with those who would be most affected.

Instead, after weeks of meandering around the topic of dam security, after public discussion of buoys in the lake and megaphones on the shore about the effectiveness of the new guardhouse, the barricades went up.

This is about more than inconvenience. In shutting off one of the three routes across the country, Denver Water has decreed that at least 8,500 additional cars a day will have to choose between either I-70 or Swan Mountain Road. Been on the latter lately? It’s bad enough even without a bicycle lane. No, most will have to choose the freeway, and God help Summit County when the thing is closed by knucklehead drivers going too fast on snowy roads. Anyone remember the horrors on the Silverthorne-Frisco rise last winter?

So the closure is going to create havoc. And since there is no “firetruck exemption,” save discussion about a gate with a lock, there are potentially serious public safety problems. By the way, a gate and a lock? Does Denver Water really think such a flimsy barrier will deter anyone truly bent on mayhem and willing to sacrifice life and limb from doing so?

On the practical side, who will mind the key? Will the lock work after three months in the Summit County deep freeze? And unless the Dam Road is plowed and maintained meticulously during the winter, a gate won’t do much good, will it? Evidently, the Big Wazoos of Denver Water do not regard these points as significant. But they don’t live here, do they?

None of this is to say that Denver Water should discount security problems posed by earthen dams. There are vulnerabilities which rational people recognize, and these must be addressed. But the most effective methods of protection call for involving the local populace and governments, not simply halting access in hopes that will put an end to the dangers.

Nor can we say that Denver Water is without authority to do what they did. Despite what we think about “our” lake, it is mostly owned by Denver Water, which may take whatever steps it deems appropriate to protect its asset. But again, one would have hoped for closer coordination with local officials and the population than was the case.

Denver Water does recognize that another road connecting the eastern and western communities of Summit County will probably be necessary. This is good, but insufficient. They should be made to foot the bill for construction of such a road, possibly through a per-cubic-meter levy on any water transferred from Summit County to the Front Range. The current political climate seems to favor increased taxes on exploitation of resources where oil and gas are concerned, so perhaps this would be an avenue to pursue. It would also have the effect of encouraging water conservation in Denver, and we’re all for conservation, right?

Everyone in our fair county should check in with at least three people on this topic. The first is our State Representative Christine Scanlan, who can be reached at (303) 866-2952, or via e-mail at; the second is our State Senator Dan Gibbs, (303) 866-4873 or Finally, since Denver Water officials are appointed by the Mayor of Denver, one should contact St. John the Hickenlooper at (720) 865-9090, or at

One might also contact Representative Mark Udall at either (970) 827-4154 or (202) 225-2161 and Bob Shaffer, P.O. Box 102135, Denver, CO 80250-2135 or (720) 377-1600. Neither of the latter have direct involvement in this issue, but it would be nice to apprise them of the sense of the community. The more, the merrier.

Please keep your communications respectful, but allow our representatives to fully understand the depth of concern over the process and effects of Denver Water’s decision.

If bureaucrats and politicos are reminded that their decisions have consequences and that there will be accountability, perhaps some good will come of this boneheaded decision after all.

Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column. E-mail him at Also, comment on this column at

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