Tempe Town Lake rubber dam bursts; waters wash away homeless

A daytime shot of Tempe Town Lake dam overflow – much less than what was experienced in the recent rubber dam explosion.

Tempe Town Lake dam overflow (Photo Credit: cogdogblog/Flickr/CC BY)

The Tempe Town Lake dam was supposed to last for 25 to 30 years, said the experts. The inflatable rubber dam created Town Lake for the city of Tempe, Arizona, is a tourist destination and point of civic pride for residents. According to Associated Press reports, however, one of the 11-year-old dam segments burst. Two-thirds to three-fourths of all the water in Tempe Town Lake – thousands of gallons – gushed into the connecting Salt River, a dry riverbed that is known as a spot for homeless people to stay during summer months.

No injuries reported after Tempe Town Lake explosion

Reports indicate that the spontaneous explosion of the 16-foot-high section of the Tempe Town Lake dam caused no injuries, and the water has placed no structures in immediate danger. Area residents said they heard a loud “ka-boom” and felt the ground shake near Arizona State University. Seconds afterward, witnesses saw animals fleeing the scene. After several minutes, safety alarms began to sound. Whether transients camping in the Salt River bed heard the alarms is unknown.

One billion gallons, flowing out at 15,000 cubic feet per second

That’s the flow at Tempe Town Lake, says Mayor Hugh Hallman. City officials apparently knew back in 2007 that Tempe’s hot, dry climate was taking its toll on the rubber dam. Yet repair action was not taken at that time. By April 2009, the makers of Tempe Town Lake dam made a safety recommendation, but Tempe chose to ignore the warning.

What about the homeless?

While the alarm was sounded, currents reports are unclear as to what affect the Tempe Town Lake dam explosion had on the transient population. On the surface, it seems that this could be a simple case of negligence and mechanical failure. However, when the cost of homelessness is factored in, there could be fiscal import. Various media sources indicate that chronic homelessness costs the United States $10.95 billion each year in public funds. If such individuals were given permanent homes, Forbes reports that that expense would drop to $7.88 billion.

There will be residency

In Maricopa County, where Tempe is located, AZCentral.com reports that there are approximately 8,000 homeless individuals on any given day. If those 8,000 people – only some of whom may live in the Salt River area near Tempe Town Lake – had homes, not only would the nation be saving money, but Maricopa County would reportedly save as much as 50 percent on emergency resources. If the Tempe Town Lake dam incident moves more homeless people into permanent housing, something truly positive will result from this minor civic disaster.


Associated Press



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