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Dam inspections take place throughout state after Santa Clara flooding

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SANTA CLARA — With the recent dam that broke in Santa Clara, many Utahns may wonder about the stability of their city water systems.

The Santa Clara dam was built just as World War I was coming to an end. It lasted for 93 years before this last flood destroyed it.

"That kind of storage of water has tremendous power," said David Marble the assistant state engineer of dam safety.

Marble is an engineer with Utah's Dam Safety inspection team. He says a lot of the state's dams were built around that time which makes it more important to pay closer attention to them.

"[The dams] are aging, and with the aging of any kind of facility there are just matters of deterioration that need to be repaired," Marble said.

Santa Clara's dam was considered a high-hazard dam which has to do more with potential consequences of a collapse than the condition of the dam. In Utah, Marble says there are about 200 high-hazard dams which get inspected every single year. There are also about 200 moderate-hazard dams, and 150 low-hazard dams.

[The dams] are aging, and with the aging of any kind of facility there are just matters of deterioration that need to be repaired.

–David Marble, assistant state engineer of dam safety

But when a high-hazard dam breaks like the one in Santa Clara, residents naturally think about other dams close to them.

"There is an element of risk that I'm not sure can be completely eliminated no matter how much we work," Marble said. "Now I don't want everybody to think there is a tremendous danger hanging over everybody's head. I just don't think that's the case."

Marble said that for communities that have homes and businesses located below a dam, it is even more important for the individuals to have an emergency disaster plan in place.


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Alex Cabrero


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