US gives Colorado $10M to fix dam upstream of ski resort

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. (AP) — U.S. emergency management officials have given Colorado a $10 million grant to fix a dam upstream of the ski resort town of Breckenridge that's listed in unsatisfactory condition and would likely lead to deadly flooding if it were to fail.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded the grant last month, The Summit Daily News reported. The Goose Pasture Tarn dam's failure could potentially flood more than 2,000 homes and businesses, damage roadways and harm the water supply, according to FEMA.

The dam is about 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) south of Breckenridge, and holds back the Blue River that flows through the center of town. It's classified as being in unsatisfactory condition and as a high-hazard dam, meaning its failure would likely result in the death of at least one person.

Brian Bovaird, the county's director of emergency management, told the newspaper that the likelihood of the dam's failure is low, but it would be catastrophic.

“If something happened, the impacts would be countywide,” Bovaird said. “Once those repairs are done, we'll be in a great place.”

The Goose Pasture Tarn Dam is one of 24 high-hazard dams in unsatisfactory condition in Colorado and 1,688 nationwide that an Associated Press investigation found last year.

The need for upgrades to the Goose Pasture Tarn Dam emerged about five years ago, when monitoring stations began to see significant rising water levels, according to Steve Boand, a state hazard mitigation officer with the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

The $10 million grant will cover more than half the cost of the repairs, and Breckenridge has budgeted for the rest, Boand said.

The work to lower the spillway by 4 feet (1.22 meters) is scheduled to begin later this year and end in 2022 or 2023.

“The dam will always be on the state’s high hazard dam list,” Boan said. "But this will reduce the likelihood of anything actually occurring.”

Since 1950, there have been six major dam failures in Colorado, according to a 2018 Colorado State Hazard Mitigation Plan.

FEMA also awarded Colorado over $260,000 last year to conduct risk assessments and repair high-hazard dams.