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Apr 29, 2014

Did water surges at the Vaca Dam contribute to multiple drowning?

Steven Usher

In early April, two students from Escuela Secundaria Tecnica Mexico drowned near the low-lying bridge in San Ignacio. Their deaths sparked speculation that a surge of water released from the Vaca Dam daily contributed to their demise. This past weekend another young man, Jonathan Requeña, died in the area between the Hawkesworth Bridge and the low-lying bridge. The time of his death at three forty-five coincides almost exactly with the time of death of the students weeks prior. That has again given rise to speculation that a strong surge of water from the Vaca facility could somehow be connected. Today News Five spoke to Steven Usher, Vice President of Operations for BECOL, which operates the Vaca Dam. He maintains that it’s just not possible, since there is no surge of water released from the dam.


Via Phone: Steven Usher, Vice President of Operations, BECOL

“I could see where the perception comes in the public eye with the recent drowning that occurred, but the way we operate we operate on a schedule. B.E.L. dispatches power to us and depending on the energy needs of the country we generate power and this is through our Vaca Dam, the Vaca Hydroelectric Facility. So when we generate power we release water, and this is normally released at a steady rate. The perception I think people get is that in order to see a surge in San Ignacio there would be a huge volume of water leaving our facilities, and none of our facilities are really equipped with these floodgates. So what residents of San Ignacio would see through normal operation from our Vaca facility is a slow rise in the river, and that would come up gradually. It would probably be about eight to ten inches from whatever river level or height it would be at. And the way we generate power…normally we increase our generation based on the demand, and that would normally be between eight o’clock and nine o’clock in the morning which would increase our generation. San Ignacio residents would probably see that water getting into San Ignacio at between three and four o’clock in the evening and that is generally what they are seeing. But it’s not a surge…it’s just a gradual rise. What we are in process right now is we’re going to contact the Department of the Environment and NEMO and see if we can possibly put some sort of information…not really a warning but to advise people along the river that there may be slight changes in the river flow condition based on our generation. But there is no major flood or huge current of water that would come down but it’s just an information process that we’re looking at.”

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4 Responses for “Did water surges at the Vaca Dam contribute to multiple drowning?”

  1. McNeil says:


  2. Rafael says:

    Based on this report, a number of questions arise,

    Did the drowning coincide with the water surge?
    What is the increase in water velocity with the water surge?
    Would this increase in velocity be enough to drag an inexperienced swimmer under?
    It is obvious that BECOL recognizes a problem, why haven’t they been proactive in warning citizens?
    The vice president of operation’s statements seemed to be based on heresay rather than any study of the water surge, will an independent body cross check these statements to verify or dispel them?

  3. Natty Dread says:

    This really sounds like a convoluted attempt by someone to ascribe liability for the drowning of people in the Macal to a corporation with deep pockets. I know the river very well and there is no water surge to speak off. The level of the river slowly rises and goes down and the rise is more pronounced in the rainy season but nothing that you would consider sudden or strange except in times of flood.

  4. Jose says:

    It is hard to fathom that BECOl is getting a “black eye” with these unfortunate accidents.
    Water is released everyday since its operations started and yet there has been no surge in drowning or near drownings in the past years since it began operating-how can we now attribute these deaths to the?
    What we need to look at are factors surrounding these deaths, public safety (none in place ever) for the bathers in the river, lifeguards (voluntary or otherwise) posted at the bathing area.
    There are rivers all over this jewel that we swarm to in the dry weather to enjoy and no national entity governmental or otherwise has ever decided to address public safety in these area by posting signs, training volunteer lifeguards to prevent such tragic events, even at private businesses there are no lifeguards on duty.

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