Steamboat Springs Moffat and Routt County residents wondering why $30 million is being spent to enlarge the Elkhead Reservoir Dam will have their chance from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday. The Colorado River District plans to host an open house for the public to view the construction work that will raise the dam straddling the Routt and Moffat County border by 25 feet and will almost double the reservoir's water storage.
"During the day, we've got dump trucks and scrappers everywhere, so it's tough to do a tour for the general public," said Ray Tenney, Colorado River District project manager.
Strictly off limits to the public for obvious safety reasons, Tuesday's viewing offers a rare opportunity to assess the project scheduled for completion by next summer.
"You will be able to walk right across the dam crest on a self-guided tour with eight stops," said Tenney. "An informational pamphlet will highlight the different components of what goes into dam construction and how we built it."
River district personnel will be on hand to point out work areas and answer questions.
A collaborative effort between the Upper Colorado Endangered Fish Recovery Program and the Colorado River Water Con--servation District, the project was designed to increase the dam's ability to maintain the Yampa River's streamflow. Allocations of the increased water will help protect native endangered fish species like the Colorado pikeminnow and provide for growing human needs. The project not only calls for the expansion of the reservoir's recreational facilities, but also allows the city of Craig to gain access to 3,300 acre-feet of leased water.
Tenney pointed out a unique aspect of the project, one that requires challenging technical work for the new dam embankment to be built on and around the existent dam, in use containing the reservoir's water.
With 9,000 cubic yards of concrete poured, just shy of the amount necessary for the new spillway, the enlargement project is in its home stretch. The temporary road detour across the site will remain open until November when the enlargement will be completed with a permanent county road on the expanded dam crest. The recreational facility construction, involving a primary campground adjacent to an extended boat ramp on the reservoir's west side and an East Beach rebuilt to new water levels, is planned for the fall. The State Park at Elkhead Reservoir will reopen once the reservoir fills with the 2007 spring runoff.
To reach the open house, turn north off U.S. Highway 40 east of Craig onto Moffat County Road 29. Proceed to the main reservoir entrance -- still marked as officially closed -- and park in the marked area past the construction trailers on the left.
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