Engineers study dam settling at Wolford Mountain Reservoir between Steamboat and Kremmling |

Engineers study dam settling at Wolford Mountain Reservoir between Steamboat and Kremmling

— Motorists traveling between Steamboat Springs and Silverthorne late this summer may have noticed that Wolford Mountain Reservoir has been drawn down to unusually low levels. Now, the Colorado River District, which owns and operates the reservoir, plans to take advantage of low water levels to determine why the earthen Ritschard Dam, which forms the reservoir, is settling faster than expected.

The chief engineer for the Colorado River District stressed in a news release Wednesday that there is no safety issue associated with the settling.

"The dam is safe,” John Currier wrote. “There is no reason for concern over dam failure. There are no leaks; the dam is solid."

Wolford Mountain Reservoir is about five miles north of Kremmling along U.S. Highway 40 and stores 66,000 acre-feet of water when full. Its primary purpose is to provide water to Western Slope contract holders when their water rights would otherwise be called out by more senior water users on the Colorado River. Summer 2012 is one of those seasons, and the major drawdown of the reservoir affords the Colorado River District a chance to learn why the dam is settling faster than previously estimated.

"As with all earthen dams, Ritschard Dam was expected to settle over time," Currier wrote. “However, over its 16-year life, the dam has settled nearly 2 feet rather than the estimated 1 foot."

Water released from the reservoir also is used to substitute for water in the Colorado River that is diverted from Dillon Reservoir near Frisco by Denver Water in critically dry years. Water from Wolford benefits endangered fish in the Colorado near Grand Junction when it is released to enhance flows in the spring and late summer.

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To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

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