MONTE VISTA – Colorado Parks and Wildlife is lowering the water level at its Alberta Park Reservoir to accommodate repairs that must be made to the dam as soon as possible. The reservoir, about 40-acres in size, is located at an altitude above 10,000 feet just east of Wolf Creek Pass in Mineral County.
The earthen embankment structure is stable; however, CPW is moving quickly to make the repairs, said John Clark, dam operations engineer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Work will start July 31 after the water level has been lowered 10 feet. Repairs should be complete by late September.
During a planned field evaluation of the dam that took place the week of July 17, a CPW contactor drilled into the dam. The contractor observed that the seepage, as a result of the drilling, was more than expected downstream of the embankment. Field activities were immediately stopped and the drill hole was filled with a mixture of cement and bentonite, which is standard procedure.
“The overall integrity of the structure is not in danger and we are monitoring the dam on a daily basis,” Clark said.
For the repair, a small area on the right side of the toe of the dam will be excavated. Sand, gravel and other material will be placed there to slow the flow of the water and provide a filter to mitigate further seepage.
“While this will stabilize that part of the structure, this is an interim measure. This dam is over 60 years old and we plan to initiate major rehabilitation activities as funds become available,” Clark said.
The evaluation of the dam by the contractor was initiated to support the planned rehabilitation of the dam. Constructed in the 1950s, the dam is at the top of CPW’s priority list for reconstruction. Clark said rehabilitation work could cost more than $6 million and is planned within the next two to three years.
CPW owns and operates more than 110 dams throughout Colorado, and the average age of these dams is more than 70 years. According to a 2014 study, CPW’s dams are in need of substantial repair and rehabilitation at a cost of at least $60 million within the next five years. In 2016, CPW completed a three-year, $15.5 million project to rehabilitate the dam at Beaver Creek Reservoir, located in Rio Grande County.
“Maintaining and repairing dams is an essential activity, not just to prevent loss of life and property damage, but to enhance outdoor recreation. Unfortunately, it is very costly,” Clark said.
The reservoir is located in an area managed by the U.S. Forest Service’s Rio Grande National Forest. Forest Service officials have put a closure order in effect for the area around the dam to protect human health and safety during repair work. The closure prohibits people from passing through or being in the restricted area from the boat ramp to 100 yards below the dam, including the dispersed camping site.
Alberta Park Reservoir impounds about 600 acre feet of water which is used for fisheries management, fishing, wildlife conservation and recreational purposes.