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Colorado Dam Safety and Construction Review (7-CO-f)

A developer may need to submit dam and reservoir construction plans to the Colorado State Engineer’s Office for approval before beginning construction. Or at minimum the developer may need to provide a notice of intent to construct a dam to the State Engineer. C.R.S. § 37-87-105(1), Approval of Plans for Reservoir. Colorado laws governing dam and reservoirs were enacted for the protection of lives and property due to potential hazards associated with the storage of water in the reservoir behind a dam. The owner (developer) of a dam is responsible for the safe storage of water impounded in the reservoir. Guide to Construction and Administration of Dams in Colorado at p. 1.


In Colorado, the State Engineer has the authority to regulate dam and reservoir construction and safety. C.R.S. § 37-80-102(1)(K), General Duties of State Engineer. The State Engineer regulates dam safety and construction pursuant to C.R.S. § 37-87-105(1), Approval of Plans for Reservoir; C.R.S. § 37-80-102(1)(K), General Duties of State Engineer; Colorado – C.R.S. § 24-4 et seq., Rule-making and Licensing Procedures by State Agencies; and Colorado Code of Regulations – 2 CCR 402-1, Office of State Engineer Rules and Regulations for Dam Safety and Dam Construction.


Dam Safety and Construction Review Process

7-CO-f.1 – Is the Proposed Dam Considered a Jurisdictional Dam?

Whether a dam is considered a jurisdictional dam, thereby subject to the approval of the State Engineer, or a non-jurisdictional will dictate the compliance measures a developer must fulfill.

Jurisdictional Dams

A jurisdictional dam is a dam creating a reservoir with:

  • A capacity of more than one hundred (100) acre-feet of water; or
  • A surface area at the high water line in excess of twenty (20) acres; or
  • If the height of the dam will exceed ten (10) feet measured vertically from the elevation of the lowest point of the natural surface of the ground, where that point occurs along the longitudinal centerline of the dam, up to the flowline crest of the spillway of the dam.

C.R.S. § 37-87-105(1), Approval of Plans for Reservoir; 2 CCR 402-1 § (Rule) 4.2.5.1.

Non-Jurisdictional Dams

A non-jurisdictional dam is a dam creating a reservoir with a capacity of one hundred (100) acre-feet and a surface area of twenty (20) acres or less. 2 CCR 402-1 § (Rule) 4.2.5.2.

7-CO-f.2– Notice of Intent to Construct a Non-Jurisdictional Water Impoundment Structure

Non-Jurisdictional Dams

A non-jurisdictional dam is smaller in size than jurisdictional size dams. Plans and specifications are usually not required for construction. However, the developer must file a Notice of Intent to Construction a Non-Jurisdictional Water Impoundment Structure with the Colorado State Engineer’s Office at least forty-five (45) days prior to the proposed construction. Guide to Construction and Administration of Dams in Colorado at p. 3; 2 CCR 402-1 § (Rule) 11.1.

The State Engineer will determine the potential hazard for loss of life or significant damage due to failure of the structure and determine if the submittal of plans and specifications and approval of the plans and specifications by the State Engineer is required prior to construction. 2 CCR 402-1 § (Rule) 11.1.

7-CO-f.3 – Conduct Geotechnical Investigation and Foundation Requirements

Colorado requires geological and geotechnical investigations to describe the geology and geotechnical conditions for construction of the dam and reservoir pursuant to 2 CCR 402-1 § (Rule) 5.9.3, Geotechnical Investigation and Foundation Requirements. After the investigation the developer must compose a report including the geological and geotechnical analyses required for the design and construction of the dam. 2 CCR 402-1 § (Rule) 5.9.3, Geotechnical Investigation and Foundation Requirements. The developer must submit the geotechnical report with the Application for Review of Plans and Specifications for the Construction or Enlargement of a Dam and Reservoir.

7-CO-f.4 – Application for Review of Plans and Specifications for the Construction or Enlargement of a Dam and Reservoir and Supplemental Materials

New Construction or Enlargement

The developer must obtain approval of construction plans and specification for new jurisdictional new dams and enlargements, prior to construction, from the Colorado State Engineer’s Office. C.R.S. § 37-87-105(1), Approval of Plans for Reservoir.

The developer must submit a complete Colorado Application for Review of Plans and Specifications for the Construction or Enlargement of a Dam and Reservoir (Construction Application), for new constructions and enlargements, to the State Engineer’s Office for approval prior to construction. The Construction Application must include, at minimum, the following:

  • The name and contact information of the developer;
  • The location of the proposed dam, including longitude and latitude and the stream and tributary names;
  • A description of the work the developer proposes to perform;
  • A description of the proposed purpose of the dam and reservoir;
  • The name and contact information of the certified professional engineer responsibility for the design and construction;
  • A description of the type of dam;
  • The structural data regarding the proposed dam and reservoir;
  • A description of the outlet and spillway structural data; and
  • A description of the hydrologic data regarding the proposed dam and reservoir.

Colorado Application for Review of Plans and Specifications for the Construction or Enlargement of a Dam and Reservoir.

The developer must also submit the following, with the Construction Application:

2 CCR 402-1 § (Rule) 5, Requirements for Construction or Enlargement of Jurisdictional Dams or Reservoirs.

Existing Dam or Reservoir Alteration, Modification, or Repair

Note, the State Engineer must also approve any alteration, modification, or repair of an existing reservoir or dam which will affect the safety of the structure. C.R.S. § 37-87-105(4), Approval of Plans for Reservoir. A developer must also submit a Colorado Application for Review of Plans and Specifications for the Alteration, Modification, or Repair of a Dam or Reservoir for any alteration, modification, or repair to the State Engineer’s Office for approval. A developer should follow the requirements for alteration, modification, or repair of an existing dam pursuant to 2 CCR 402-1 § (Rule) 6, Requirements for Alteration, Modification, or Repair of an Existing Dam.

7-CO-f.5 to 7-CO-f.6 – Review Application Materials for Completeness

The State Engineer will review the application materials for completeness. The State Engineer may request additional information, if necessary to make a determination.

7-CO-f.7 to 7-CO-f.10 – Is the Jurisdictional Dam a High or Significant Hazard Dam?

Jurisdictional dams classified as high or significant hazard dams have additional requirements that the developer must meet. 2 CCR 402-1 § (Rule) 9.1, High and Significant Hazard Dams.

High Hazard Dam

A high hazard dam is a dam for which loss of human life is expected to result from failure of the dam. Designated recreational sites located downstream within the bounds of possible inundation should also be evaluated for potential loss of human life. 2 CCR 402-1 § (Rule) 4.2.14.1.

Significant Hazard Dam

A significant hazard dam is a dam for which significant damage is expected to occur, but no loss of human life is expected from failure of the dam. Significant damage is defined as damage to structures where people general live, work, or recreated, or public or private facilities. Significant damage is determined to be damage sufficient to render structures or facilities uninhabitable or inoperable. 2 CCR 402-1 § (Rule) 4.2.14.2.

If the dam is a significant or high hazard dam, the owner (developer) must submit to the State Engineer a Plan for Construction Observation at least thirty (30) days prior to construction. The Construction Observation Plan must include:

  • The date of the state of construction;
  • Names and qualifications of the engineer and staff to be used on the project;
  • A construction observation schedule for the engineer and staff;
  • For dams on rock foundations, a schedule for observations of the foundation by a geologist, or engineering geologist;
  • A schedule for inspection of the gate installation by the gate manufacturer or its representative unless waived by the State Engineer;
  • Identification of the firm that will conduct the construction material tests in the field and in the laboratory; and
  • A schedule of the construction material tests.

2 CCR 402-1 § (Rule) 9.1.1.

Subsequent to submitting the Construction Observation Plan, but no later than fourteen (14) days prior to commencement of construction, the developer must hold a pre-construction meeting. The developer must hold a pre-construction meeting with the engineer, dam owner (if different from the developer), the State Engineer, and the general contractor. During the meeting, the contractor should identify the means used to divert and care for the stream during construction. If reasonable, the State Engineer may approve the plan. In addition, the developer should provide the State Engineer with the name of the contractors and any principals in charge. Project communication protocol between the owner, engineer and the State Engineer should also be established. Colorado Code of Regulations – 2 CCR 402-1, Office of State Engineer Rules and Regulations for Dam Safety and Dam Construction.

Within ten (10) working days of receipt of the Construction Observation Plan, the State Engineer must review the plan and provide written comments and approval, or conditions for approval of plan. 2 CCR 402-1 § (Rule) 9.1.2.

7-CO-f.11 to 7-CO-f.12 – Does the State Engineer Approve the Application?

The State Engineer will review the dam and reservoir construction plans and specifications for approval. When making a determination, the State Engineer will make sure the construction plans and specifications comply with the dam, spillway, and construction regulations established pursuant to Colorado – C.R.S. § 37-87 et seq., Reservoirs. C.R.S. § 37-87-105(3), Approval of Plans for Reservoir.

The State Engineer must issue a written decision regarding the approval of the plans and specifications within one hundred eighty (180) days after the developer has submitted a complete copy of the plans and specifications. C.R.S. § 37-87-105(3), Approval of Plans for Reservoir.

The State Engineer may require the developer to use a particular type of material to construct the dam and reservoir. The State Engineer may also require the developer to complete the construction work in accordance with regulations the State Engineer may establish. C.R.S. § 37-87-105(3), Approval of Plans for Reservoir.

The developer must construct, alter, or repair a reservoir dam within five (5) years from the application approval date. 2 CCR 402-1 § (Rule) 5.8, Approval Limitation.

7-CO-f.13 – Submit Construction Completion Documentation

The developer must ensure that the project engineer submits the construction completion documents outlined pursuant to 2 CCR 402-1 § (Rule) 10.2 to the State Engineer within sixty (60) days of the final construction inspection in order for the State to deem the project complete. 2 CCR 402-1 § (Rule) 10.2.

7-CO-f.14 – Issue Letter of Acceptance of Construction Completion

The State Engineer must approve the completion of the construction before the State can deem the construction complete. The State Engineer will provide to the owners (developer) of the project structure a written statement of acceptance. The written statement of acceptance must specify the dimensions of the dam and the capacity of the reservoir. C.R.S. § 37-87-105(3), Approval of Plans for Reservoir. The State Engineer must provide this written statement of acceptance within sixty (60) days of the written notification by the owner (developer) that the developer has completed the construction of the dam. C.R.S. § 37-87-105(3), Approval of Plans for Reservoir.

7-CO-f.15 – Appeal Decision (If Applicable)

The developer or any other person affected or aggrieved the State Engineer’s approval or disapproval of the plans and specification for construction of reservoir/dam, or the alteration, modification, repair, or enlargement of a reservoir or dam which will affect the safety of the structure may request an adjudicatory hearing before the State Engineer pursuant to 2 CCR 402-5 § 1.1.4(2)(vi). Such request must be made within thirty (30) days of the date of the State Engineer’s determination and must identify the person(s) requesting the hearing and the basis upon which they believe the State Engineer made an erroneous determination. All adjudicatory hearings are conducted pursuant to the requirements set forth in C.R.S. 24-4-105 et seq., State Administrative Procedures Act. 2 CCR 402-1 § (Rule) 20, Appeal of Requirements or Approval.




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Edit Colorado Division of Water Resources
Chief of Colorado Dam Safety
719-530-5536
billabbazabbamccormick@stateabbazabbacoabbazabbaus
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