Written by Paul Day

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– A once popular canyon for Denver area outdoor recreation may remain closed well beyond the day it’s due to reopen.

Waterton Canyon is where the South Platte River flows onto the plains about a half hour’s drive southwest of Denver.

The area features a healthy trout stream flowing next to a dirt road which is ideal for hikers, cyclists, anglers and nature watching.

But a massive dredging project at Strontia Springs Reservoir has kept the canyon closed since August 2010.

A contractor hired by Denver Water is removing debris and sediment deposited by wildfires and heavy rains.

An investigation by CBS4 revealed the dredging work has run into problems. It is only about one third finished and could end up in litigation.

When the work first started in Summer 2010, Denver Water said the $29 million project would be finished by Dec 31, 2011.

waterton canyon Wait To Use Waterton Canyon May Be Longer Than Planned

(credit: CBS)

However, there’s mounting evidence the deadline will be extended.

In August, Doug Raitt, Denver Water’s Construction Project Manager, gave a briefing to the Cititzen Advisory Committee for Denver Water.

According to minutes of the meeting posted online Raitt said,”Mechanical issues have slowed progress,” and that, “damages could be imposed on the vendor if the project is not finished on time.”

CBS4 has also learned just 214,000 cubic yards of sediment have been dredged to date.

The contractor needs to remove 625,000 yards according to Denver Water’s website.

So after working 15 months, nearly two thirds of the work is unfinished and the job is supposed to be wrapped up in less than two months.

“We know how important Waterton canyon is to recreationists,” Denver Water Spokeswoman Stacy Chesney wrote in an email this week to CBS4.

She added, “This is a situation where there is potential for litigation, so we can’t discuss it further.”

CBS4 also contacted the contractor, Sevenson Environmental Services at the company’s home office in Niagara Falls, New York.

The only person who could comment, we were told, is the Vice President of Operations.

He was said to be traveling on Friday and unavailable.

Chesney said Denver Water plans to have a progress report on the project and public access issues next month.

But in the meantime, hikers, bikers and anglers are left guessing how much longer they’ll have to wait.


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