LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – The threat of yet even more rain is not good news for areas already dealing with high water. Some already-swollen reservoirs are having trouble getting back below flood levels.
On Monday Bear Creek Lake in southern Jefferson County was getting close to 2013 flood levels. Along the creek they’ve seen some erosion, but the lake has now doubled in size and many park amenities are submerged.
“Immediately behind me this road drops down about 300 feet to a lower parking lot that you can’t even see that has a restroom and a picnic shelter and a fishing pier — and all of that is about 30 feet below water right now,” said Drew Sprafke, Lakewood Parks Supervisor.
The problems in 2013 happened when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers absolutely shut the gates to the dam to ease the problems on the South Platte River. Flooding caused $300,000 worth of damage to the park. Restoration efforts were completed just three months ago. This year those dam gates have stayed open and Bear Creek Lake has still peaked at 40 feet above normal.
“With the Corps, of course, public safety is our number one priority, and so that’s why the dams are there.” Joe Maxwell with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said.
It’s obvious the levels are starting to recede at Chatfield State Park. Water reached 8 feet above normal there but is receding. Bear Creek Lake isn’t as lucky.
“Everything is operating exactly as it was designed,” Maxwell said.
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While the park at Bear Creek Lake is built to flood, it’s only the second time in recent memory water levels have gotten that high.
“We monitor what’s coming in to the reservoirs and what’s downstream, and so that determines what we can release. The whole idea is to not flood anything downstream.” Maxwell said.
“We were not expecting this in the slightest bit. This was much different than the 2013 flooding,” Sprafke said.
The lake level is going back down, but officials aren’t sure what’s ahead.
“In 2013 it took about 3 weeks to 4 weeks to drain off the level. We were about 55 feet up then, we’re about 40 now,” Sprafke said. “So it could be a month and it just really depends on what the weather keeps doing to us.”