Ritschard Dam near Wolford Mountain Reservoir safe but needs study
Colorado River District officials updated the Kremmling Town Council on Dec. 21, 2011, about recent construction activities on the Ritschard Dam at nearby Wolford Mountain Reservoir.
This past fall, construction equipment and crews were working on the dam to complete the second phase of a project to install sophisticated monitoring devices inside the 16-year-old structure.
The monitoring devices measure movements and water levels in the earthen dam. All earthen dams settle and all dams experience seepage, but River District engineers want a closer look at a part of the dam that has settled more than anticipated.
The River District commissioned a peer-review panel of internationally recognized dam engineers who concluded this past July 2011 that the issue bears further study but that the dam was safe. The settlement does not pose any danger and the dam continues to be in full compliance with the State Engineer’s Dam Safety Office.
“We have a settlement situation that we are taking very seriously but we do not have an urgent dam safety issue,” said John Currier, River District Chief Engineer. “We want to be methodical and thorough to determine the proper remediation, should it be required.”
Officials also noted that primitive campsites will be added to the reservoir’s popular recreation area that often sells out on summer weekends. The additional sites are expected to be ready for the summer season.
Wolford Mountain Reservoir is located on Muddy Creek, about five miles north of Kremmling. It stores about 66,000 acre feet of water when full. Water is released from the reservoir to fulfill contracts held by Western Slope water users and to replace water diverted by Denver Water at Dillon Reservoir. The reservoir provides contract holders water for the times when their water rights would otherwise be called out by more senior water users on the Colorado River. Wolford water releases allow the junior rights holders to maintain their water use while protecting senior water rights holders. Most often, the major senior calling water right is the Shoshone Hydro Plant in Glenwood Canyon.
Water releases from Wolford also benefit endangered fish in the Colorado River near Grand Junction during times of lower flows.
Wolford was built with the cooperation and financing from Denver Water and Northern Water, both Front Range transmountain water diverters. Denver Water owns 40 percent of the reservoir’s capacity.
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Hoping that the third time is the charm, the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday again passed the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, along with other public land provisions.