KREMMLING, Colo. (CBS4) – It’s only 20 years old, but a Colorado dam isn’t holding up as planned. Now officials say they’re going to act quickly to protect thousands of Coloradans.
The Ritschard Dam on Wolford Mountain Reservoir near the town of Kremmling has some residents in the area concerned.
There have already been a few public meetings regarding the dam in Grand County. The Ritschard Dam has a clay core and is filled in around that with rocks, but the dam hasn’t held its shape. Something has happened with the settling of all the material over the past two decades.
“In 2009 it was discovered that pieces of the dam have settled faster than was expected by designers,” Jim Pokrandt with the Colorado River District said.
Sophisticated monitors have been placed inside the dam. The crest of the dam has settled down 2 feet, twice as much as expected — and also shifted downstream 8 inches.
“We’ve been studying that since 2009, spent $1.5 million or more on this, and we really can’t say why exactly, other than there could be some compaction issues that date back to construction time,” Pokrandt said.
Engineers have said it’s the river district’s top priority, and not fixing the dam could send a devastating flood down the Colorado River.
“Public safety is not at risk and it won’t be at risk because we’re going to take this quick action,” Pokrandt said.
Exactly how the dam will be secured and fixed won’t be decided until later in the year. One idea is making the dam and reservoir bigger.
“You can imagine that if you’re going to fix a settlement issue you might be scraping off part of the dam and rebuilding it. How much, we don’t know.”
Forty percent of the water in the dam is owned by Denver Water. The rest is to ensure water in the river for endangered fish and water for municipalities on the Western Slope. But making the reservoir hold more water brings in a whole new set of issues.
“It’s premature to talk about what the exact repair scenario could be,” Pokrandt said. “There’s no quick fix.”
The Colorado River District board will likely make a decision on how the dam will be fixed by the end of the year.