Turnout shows level of interest in lake is high

Friday, February 19, 2010

There wasn't a lot of time for questions and answers during Thursday night's informational meeting on Red Willow Dam, at least for the standing-room-only crowd.

Individuals did, however, have time to ask various officials questions following the half-hour PowerPoint presentation.

The problem, it seems goes back to the way the dam was constructed in 1960.

The drain pipe on the southwest end of the dam is resting on solid bedrock, while the adjoining material rests on more compressible riverbed material.

Although the dam was built with compacted layer after layer of earth, and held up well for more than 40 years, the different rate at which the soft material toward the center of the dam settled, as compared to the bedrock on the end of the dam, created the cracks.

The long process of determining what it will take to fix the problem, and how to pay for it, is already under way. Farmers who benefit from the irrigation water Hugh Butler Lake provides will be responsible for 15 percent of the cost of the repairs, but they'll have up to 50 years to do so.

And, while it will take a literal act of Congress to fix the dam, the process is actually biased toward repair, thanks to the Reclamation Dam Safety Act. Once the project is approved by the Bureau of Reclamation and federal Office of Management and Budget and submitted to Congress, it must be acted upon within 30 days or it will be considered to have been approved.

How can local lake interests help move the process along? Well, if Thursday night's turnout is any indication, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation knows people in our area are vitally interested and staying informed. That's a good start.

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