Heightened security extends far beyond airports

091111 Water Security

No-loitering rules near some reservoir dams and hydroelectric plants.

Better-secured classrooms and courtrooms.

Cameras monitoring state highways.

Coloradans and Americans began seeing some of, or more of, such measures following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as increased security extended well beyond airports. Some of the measures resulted directly from the attacks, others from attacks on schools and other acts of violence that left Americans feeling their communities are no longer as safe as they once were.

“What it amounts to is nationwide, maybe we’re not as trusting as we once were,” said John Martin, a commissioner in Garfield County, where security screening was implemented in the courthouse after the out-of-state shooting of a judge several years ago.

After the 2001 attacks, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Upper Colorado regional office, which is in charge of dams, reservoirs and hydroelectric plants, including the Glen Canyon and Flaming Gorge facilities, created a separate security and dam safety division that focuses on such issues, and taxpayers partially fund.

“Security is a major expense factor for us now, and it’s one we carry year to year,” said Barry Wirth, spokesman for the bureau’s Upper Colorado region.

Immediately following 9-11, the Bureau of Reclamation imposed boating restrictions on some Colorado reservoirs and even closed Pueblo Reservoir, as short-term precautions. Kara Lamb, spokeswoman for the bureau’s eastern Colorado office, said one restriction that remains for that office, which also has jurisdiction over Ruedi and Green Mountain reservoirs in western Colorado, is a 100-foot buffer zone where people can’t loiter on land around dams and hydroelectric plants.

People can drive, walk or bike on roads across dams, but not fish from them, she said.

Mark Stutz, spokesman for Xcel Energy, said focusing on cyber threats has been one of the biggest security changes for his company in recent decades.

Xcel and other utility companies long have been worried about protecting power plants, transmission lines and other infrastructure.

However, “I think clearly we think about things a little differently than we did on Sept. 10” of 2001, said Jim Owen, spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, a national, investor-owned utility trade group.

In some cases, efforts to protect infrastructure may include measures such as reduced public access to facilities for tours and such, even though such access never has been that easy, Owen said.

Xcel allowed at least one public tour of its historic Shoshone hydroelectric plant in Glenwood Canyon this summer, but it was highly restrictive regarding what it allowed to be photographed.

Even before 2001, Xcel had some pretty strict security rules, such as barring filming of defense and security camera systems, Stutz said.

Wirth said public tours continue at Bureau of Reclamation sites, including Glen Canyon Dam, and cameras are welcome.

The Sept. 11 attacks prompted the Colorado Department of Transportation to inventory critical assets and monitor certain locations more frequently to look for unusual behavior, agency spokeswoman Stacey Stegman said. One result was the closure of a public restroom outside Interstate 70’s Eisenhower Tunnel.

The agency added an increasing number of cameras that help it better manage traffic on highways, “but there’s an added security benefit,” she said.



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