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Major Disaster Averted At Baseline Reservoir Dam

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Baseline Reservoir (credit: CBS)

Baseline Reservoir (credit: CBS)

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LAFAYETTE, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado has wrapped up its investigation of 200 dams following this month’s historic flooding.

Nine small dams failed and one larger dam came close to breaching. If the dam at Baseline Reservoir had failed it would have been catastrophic. The body of water is 270 acres and sits right next to a neighborhood with hundreds of homes and a school. During the flooding it came up 4 1/2 feet in 2 1/2 days.

Water went right up to and and in some cases on top of the crest. As the embankment gave way a team of engineers raced to keep it from a potential disaster. As the water rose the City of Lafayette found a crack in the dam.

“If it were to fail it would have significant impacts to probably both life and property,” state dam safety engineer Ryan Schoolmeesters said.

They had to act fast as 300 million gallons of water spilled into the reservoir from South Boulder Creek on top of 8 inches of rain. They tried releasing some of the waters.

“But we were bringing in at a far greater than we could take out,” City of Lafayette engineer Brad Dallam said.

It equates to 50 percent of the city’s water supply.

“We would be devastated. We would lose basically half of next year’s water,” Dallam said.

Yet with only 12 dam safety engineers the state needed help.

“We needed to move fast,” said private engineer Dan Johnson, who volunteered his time and expertise.

“Having that support system was enormous, so our first step was to stabilize it so it wouldn’t go anywhere,” Schoolmeesters said.

They drew up plans and dug trenches and hauled in sand and managed to stop the seepage.

The dam is one of many around the state that still needs repair. There is no longer any danger of the dam failing.

Colorado Floods: How To Help

The recent floods are impacting families and communities throughout Colorado, so CBS4 has compiled a list of ways you can support the local communities impacted by the floods.

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