TEMPE, AZ - Tempe officials are ruling out foul play after a tear developed in the rubberized dam designed to hold back water in Tempe Town Lake.
Tempe City Manager Charlie Meyer said police determined there's no criminal activity involved in the dam failure.
The dam broke around 9:45 p.m. Tuesday and sent thousands of gallons of water rushing downstream into the normally dry Salt River.
Mayor Hugh Hallman said Tempe Town Lake will likely be closed until the fall as the city makes repairs and replacements to the dam while the lake is empty.
The city removed docks to accommodate the water flow and the lake is now officially closed to classes and boaters until further notice.
Hallman added there have been no reports of injuries or loss of life and the dam systems worked as they were designed to after the dam failed.
Meantime, the temporary loss of Tempe Town Lake has left some feeling a little "high and dry."
For residents who live in condos that overlook the lake, the view was a big reason why they bought where they did.
"It is disappointing," said Dick Foreman, whose condo overlooks the lake. "It is not tragic. It will be fixed. I'm thankful no one was hurt."
Real estate agent Katie Williams, with Park Place Real Estate, said she doesn't expect it to impact her sales.
"It is already a slow time," she said. "This is the best time for it to have happened. If anything the curiosity might actually create a spike."
For members of the Rio Salado Rowing Club, the dam break creates a huge setback for their training.
"Not being able to actually get on the water is going to hurt in upcoming competitions," said Rick Shuckerow. "It affects a lot of people."
Shuckerow said that members train on the lake every morning. They will now have to look for other places to row.
Officials say it is too soon to tell if any scheduled events on the lake will be impacted by Tuesday's unexpected break.
The man-made lake has four dams on its west end; the break was in the middle section.
Tempe had been working to replace the bladders for the last year because they were determined to be reaching their life span earlier than anticipated, according to the City of Tempe.
Bridgestone, the manufacturer of the bladders, had delivered two of the four replacement sections of the west dam. The city and its contractor had been working to replace the sections, but efforts were hampered in recent months by upstream water flows from snow melt and rain in other parts of the state.
While the tear in rubber bladder #2 seemed to take everyone by surprise, the City of Tempe has known for years the west end of Tempe Town Lake wouldn't last, with the intense Arizona sun eating away at the rubber.
The city blames the dam manufacturer, Bridgestone, for using ceramic chips which it said added to the deterioration and for not installing a watering system to keep the rubber wet.
In a statement, Bridgestone said "the city was to assure water overflow to keep the dams cool" and that "the dams were sold with a 10-year warranty, which expired in June 2009."
"These dam systems were reported to last at least 30 years. You draw your conclusion," said Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman.
Plans have been in the works to replace the inflatable bladders as far back as 2006.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued the City of Tempe a permit in November 2009 , as the bladders were "being replaced in order to insure dam safety."
The Arizona Department of Water Resources signed off on a permit in March of 2010 , with construction to begin "some time in April."
City officials said that date got pushed back due to weather up north.
"We couldn't replace the dam segments during storm flows, and we had one as recently as just a couple of weeks ago," Hallman said.
Both indicate there were "no safety deficiencies."
City officials said their checks, done monthly and in some cases weekly, never showed any imminent danger either.
"We don't have any indication from any prior inspections that that dam bladder was failing in advance, and the indication we have is that there is not necessarily going to be an awful lot of advance notice if one of those seams is to go," said Tempe City Manager Charlie Meyer.
The City of Tempe said Bridgestone is paying for the replacement work.
A Bridgestone spokesman told ABC15 the company is " working with city officials to determine the next steps ."
Tempe Town Lake, which opened in 1999, holds about 1 billion gallons of water.
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