Ritschard Dam work pushed to 2018; expert says dam failure ‘essentially nonexistent’
An earthwork project on Ritschard Dam, north of Kremmling on Wolford Mountain Reservoir, has been postponed this summer due to a combination of factors, though officials plan to move forward with construction in 2018.
Officials from the Colorado River District, which owns and operates Wolford Mountain Reservoir, announced in spring 2016 that they were scrapping plans to conduct a multimillion dollar rehabilitation project on Ritschard Dam, which when full holds back Wolford’s 66,000 acre-feet of water. At that time the district announced it would initiate an earthwork project to restore the dam to its original height after several years of settling dropped the dam’s crest by roughly one-and-a-half feet.
District officials, however, announced plans this week to postpone the dam heightening project until 2018.
Jim Pokrandt, spokesperson for the river district, explained the decision was based on several factors including that the project is still working through the permitting process and officials were concerned about a late start for construction and the potential for bumping up against colder weather.
Pokrandt further noted that 2017 has been a very busy construction season and bids on the project would have been high.
“This is still a good project and it needs to be done. It will just take another year,” Pokrandt said.
The River District had previously planned to draw down Wolford to accommodate the earthwork but the recent announcement means accelerated drawdowns will not occur.
According to Ray Tenney, Deputy Chief Engineer for the District, for the remainder of summer and fall, the usual and expected water deliveries for contract and endangered fish habitat purposes will occur, resulting in a typical seasonal drawdown of about 10 feet in water elevation in coming months.
Wolford’s recreational amenities, including camping, boating, fishing, and day-use, will still remain open to he public.
Ritschard Dam was originally built in 1995. The River District realized the dam was settling and shifting at a rate higher than initially anticipated in 2009. The district initially planned to conduct roughly $15 million in rehabilitation work but last year the district announced it would scrap the project after a team of former engineers from the Federal Bureau of Reclamation examined the dam and determined the accelerated settling did not necessarily pose a significant risk.
“The odds of having a dam failure associated with ongoing movement of the dam, as a practical matter, is essentially nonexistent,” said John Currier, district chief engineer, at the 2016 State of the River meeting in Granby.
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