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Ashland is ready if Reeder Reservoir dam fails

Ashland has begun a contingency plan in regard to earthquake, etc. For decades, fire chiefs have said when, not if, Reeder Reservoir fails, the water flow will reach the freeway. What is the contingency plan for that?

— Judy V., Central Point

Fear not, Judy. The folks at Ashland Fire & Rescue assure us they are ready for such a disaster — when or if it happens.

Hosler Dam, first built in 1928, holds back the waters of Reeder Reservoir, which is Ashland's primary water source. The dam is regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. If it failed, Ashland Creek would likely flood parts of Lithia Park, portions of Granite and Nutley streets, the Ashland Plaza and Winburn Way, and cover the area between Oak and Helman streets.

It would take the waters about eight minutes to reach the city limits. About 450 homes would be affected. Officials say a major dam failure is highly unlikely, but that it still pays to have a plan in place.

Chief John Karns from Ashland Fire & Rescue tells us the city has several safety checks in place. There are emergency sirens for Hosler Dam, tested regularly. Additionally, there are numerous signs pointing out evacuation routes, and Ashland and Talent residents can have alerts — called reverse 911s — sent to their phone or by email if they sign up.

"Ashland, I think, is well-positioned, actually," Karns said. "It's definitely on our radar screen."

Karns encouraged those in the potential flood path to know their evacuation routes in case the dam does fail. You can see a map of spots that would likely be affected by flooding at www.ashland.or.us/Files/hosler%20dam.PDF.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com.