LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – Bear Creek is dry below the lake and dam that share the same name in Lakewood. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is doing scheduled maintenance, and it couldn’t come at a better time.
“It does come at a unique time after we’ve had some higher flows and high waters that we can get in and take a look to make sure everything is working,” said Joe Maxwell, Operations Project Manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tri-Lakes Project Office.
In May Bear Creek Lake crested at more than 50 feet above normal. The only other time the lake has flooded that much was during the floods of September 2013. The dam started releasing 500 cubic feet per second but it still took most of the summer to reach a normal level.
Now the lake is down about 5 feet. Bear Creek flows into the South Platte River near Hampden and Santa Fe.
“The whole purpose of this dam of Bear Creek, Cherry Creek, and Chatfield is for flood control,” said Maxwell.
But to maintain that control the dam is going through maintenance. The wet canal is almost completely dry.
“It gives us an opportunity to look at things we don’t look at very often. With any structure you want to make sure it’s operating as it’s designed,” said Maxwell. “We’ll take a look at all the concrete walls, there’s big blocks, concrete blocks, and we’ll make sure that they’re still sound and together.”
The inspections and fixes are expected to take until Nov. 21. About 1,000 fish were moved from the spill basin and put back into Bear Creek Lake. The basin is being cleaned and inspected outside of the outflow canal.
“Right around the dam you don’t want it eroding around the sides here to cut back into the dam. It’s important it dissipates itself and flows away slowly so we’re not undercutting the dam,” Maxwell said. “It gives us a good close look at what we don’t get to look at very often.”
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.