Lawn Lake Dam: Pre-Failure Comprehensive Dam Safety Evaluation and Post Failure Impacts: On-Demand

Lawn Lake Dam, located in Rocky Mountain National Park, failed suddenly and catastrophically on a sunny day in July 1982, and resulted in over $30 million dollars in damage and the loss of 3 lives. This webinar will explore the history of the dam, construction features responsible for the failure, the failure event and emergency response, the long legal process to assign liability for the failure, and the overall impacts to the Town of Estes Park and its citizens, the Colorado Dam Safety Branch, and the National Park Service.

Key Takeaways:

  • Internal Erosion Potential Failure Modes (PFM's).
    Latent Physical Conditions at dams that results in PFM's.
    Dam Failure Investigations and Forensic Reporting.
    Preparing State and Federal Dam Safety Programs to pro-actively mitigate PFM's.
    Learning from the dam failure experiences of the past to be better prepared for the future.

Bill McCormick, P.E.

Chief of Dam Safety, Colorado Dam Safety Branch

Bill McCormick holds a bachelors degree in Geology and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Geological Engineering. He is a licensed Professional Engineer and a Professional Geologist in the state of Colorado.  He has over 28 years of professional experience as geologist, engineering geologist and civil engineer involved with design, construction and regulation of water projects in Colorado and Nevada. He has been with the Colorado Division of Water Resources for the past 14 years and as Chief of the Colorado Dam Safety Branch since 2011.  Bill and his award winning team of dam safety engineers have responsibility for developing and executing a comprehensive dam safety risk management program for all dams in the state of Colorado in the interest of public safety.  Bill currently serves as Secretary of the ASDSO Board of Directors.

Mark E. Baker, P.E.

Dam and Levee Safety Officer, National Park Service

Mark Baker is a registered professional engineer and manages the risks to national parks posed by dams, levees, dikes and canals. He led teams to develop risk methodologies/products, including: the BIA Comprehensive Review, Low hazard dam risk screening, and levee risk screening. He has 25 years of dam safety experience including 18 years with the Bureau of Reclamation. Mark authored the DOI Blueprint for Dam Safety Programs and the 2004 Department of the Interior Manual for Dam Safety. He is founder and co-leader of the Washington DC Silver Jackets Flood Risk Management Group. He is founder and co-chair of the ASDSO Dam Failures Committee. In addition to the Lawn Lake failure, he has performed extensive primary research, authored a technical paper, and presented 19 times the Fontenelle Dam incident of 1965. He was project manager for the peer review of six DOI agencies and a team member of the TVA dam safety program peer review. He was a member of the team that selected the Oroville Dam Incident Independent Forensics Review Team.

Comprehensive Dam Safety Evaluation (CDSE)

Welcome to the 1981 Comprehensive Dam Safety Evaluation for Lawn Lake Dam

Introductions (Stakeholders)

Introduction to the CDSE Process

Flow Chart review of process

Description of Dam – Existing Information document gathering/review

          Location description

Site Geology

Design and Construction history

Hazard Classification

Inspection History

Performance History

Potential Failure Mode Brainstorming





          Key Dam Components and Likely PFMs



                    Outlet works


PFM Screening

Positive Factors – Factors that make it a less likely failure mode

Adverse Factors – Factors that make it a more Likely Failure Mode

Remote PFM(s)

PFM(s) to bring forward

Event Trees







          Map Review

          Level 1,2,3,4

F-N Chart

Risk driving failure modes - 



Making the Case

Recommended risk reduction measures - next actions



          Emergency Preparation


The Failure of Lawn Lake Dam and Post-Failure Impacts

The failure event

Emergency response and recovery

Forensic Investigation


Policy changes (State)

Policy Changes/Dam removals (NPS)

Lessons Learned

Physical Factors - CDSE

Human Factors


Emergency Preparation


Wrap up and Takeaways


On- Demand Webinar
Open to view video.
Open to view video.
Post Survey
5 Questions
5 Questions Post Survey
Completion Quiz
10 Questions  |  3 attempts  |  6/10 points to pass
10 Questions  |  3 attempts  |  6/10 points to pass
Completion Certificate
2.00 PDH credits  |  Certificate available
2.00 PDH credits  |  Certificate available