Reclamation Performing Tests on El Vado Dam

Media Contact: Mary Carlson, (505) 462-3576

For Release: February 13, 2012

The Rio Chama may run red for a short period on Valentine's Day. The Bureau of Reclamation is scheduled to perform tests on El Vado Dam on Tuesday that will include the release of a red dye into the reservoir just above the dam.

El Vado, like all dams, experiences some seepage. Reclamation is releasing the dye to monitor that seepage. The results of the test will determine future monitoring and will provide information to plan for repairs, if needed.

"Downstream residents or fisherman may see a little red in the Rio Chama for a day or two this week. We want to assure them that it's completely safe. The dye is not toxic and is only being used as part of standard testing at the dam," said Albuquerque Area Manager Mike Hamman. "We've performed similar tests with various colors of dye at other Reclamation dams within the Albuquerque Area Office in recent years."

El Vado Dam was built by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District in 1935 and was rehabilitated by Reclamation in 1955. The dam itself is unique in that it is one of only a few steel plated, earth fill dams. Standard maintenance of the dam includes detection and repair of cracks in those steel plates. The dye is being released in an effort to more accurately measure a crack that has been repaired above the water level but is known to extend below the water level. The results of the test will help engineers monitoring the dam determine the best course for action.

Dam safety continues to be one of Reclamation's highest priorities. Reclamation's Dam Safety Program requires dams to be examined by specialists every three years, with additional internal reviews performed annually. El Vado is scheduled to undergo a Comprehensive Facility Review in 2013.

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 Western States. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at and follow us on Twitter @USBR.