From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):
The Colorado River District has been given some breathing room for dealing with a problem dam at its Wolford Mountain Reservoir five miles from Kremmling.
A three-person outside team of dam experts has advised the district that the Ritschard Dam is safe despite the settling that has occurred there, no immediate action is required, and the district should be deliberate in determining how to address the problem.
“The Consultant Review Board has emphatically emphasized that time is on our side,” the district’s chief engineer, John Currier, said in a memo to the district board in advance of its meeting next week.
The recommendation comes as good news to the district, which has identified the dam as the most important issue it currently faces. It already has spent about $1.5 million to install sophisticated instruments to measure the dam’s settlement. Since its completion in 1995, the rock-fill, clay-core dam has settled near its center by about two feet. While earthen dams settle, in this case the drop was a foot more than expected. The dam crest also has shifted about eight inches downstream.
The three-person team, district staff and consulting engineers are now proposing that the district hold a workshop with the Dam Safety branch of the Colorado Division of Water Resources and Denver Water, which has a leasehold interest in the reservoir, to consider next steps.
“We were thinking that some kind of work would begin in 2016 or (20)17, to begin some kind of remediation program, but now we’re saying OK, let’s dig deeper into the issue based on this third-party finding,” district spokesman Jim Pokrandt said.
He said the finding means the district has more time to make sure it takes the right next steps regarding the dam. The most expensive repair would involve rebuilding the dam, which several years ago the taxpayer-funded district estimated could cost $30 million. Another approach could involve injecting concrete into the dam to reinforce it.
The original dam and reservoir project cost $42 million, including land acquisition, permitting, construction and other expenses…
The dam sits on Muddy Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River. The river district has consulted with the town council of Kremmling, which is downstream of the reservoir on the Colorado River, and Grand County commissioners. It also has held public meetings and kept emergency managers informed of the situation.
Bill McCormick, the state’s chief of dam safety, agrees that there is no reason for immediate concern regarding the dam.
“It is displaying some unusual behavior but (the findings of) all the analysis that’s been done to date is that it’s not creating unsafe conditions,” he said.
Still, he said he thinks everyone involved agrees there’s a long-term issue pertaining to continued settling, which requires a long-term solution.
“The long-term solution isn’t clear or obvious just yet but we’re continuing to work on it,” McCormick said.