Ritschard Dam rehab plans canceled — The Sky-Hi Daily News

Wolford Mountain Reservoir
Wolford Mountain Reservoir

From The Sky-Hi Daily News (Lance Maggart):

Ritschard Dam is settling but despite concerns plans for remediation have been halted, with local officials explaining a recent expert review of the dam’s structural viability left them feeling more confident about the long term prospects for the barrier.

Ritschard Dam is an earthen dam north of Kremmling. It was constructed in 1995 and since then officials from the Colorado River District have nervously watched as the structure slowly settled and shifted. While officials have been quick to point out the dam poses no safety risks, and has not been placed under operational restrictions, for the past several years ongoing research and discussions have revolved around what needs to be done to stop the settling process.

During a State of the River meeting held at Mountain Parks Electric in late May officials discussed the current state of the dam and new plans the Colorado River District has to monitor movement in the dam and conduct minor rehabilitation work.


John Currier, Chief Engineer for the Colorado River District, spoke to attendees at the State of the River meeting specifically about Ritschard Dam. “All embankment dams settle,” Currier said. “But designers anticipate how much a dam ‘should’ settle. This dam embankment is 140 feet high. It ought to settle about one foot.”

Currier went on to explain how, in 2009, the River District realized the dam had settled more than one foot by that point, reaching close to 1.5 feet of settlement as well as a slight bow in the center of the dam downstream. The dam continues to settle, at it’s highest points, at a rate of about one inch per year. The center of the dam has, thus far, bowed approximately eight inches downstream.

“We decided we ought to get to the bottom of this and find out why it settled more than anticipated,” Currier said.

Over the intervening years the Colorado River District spent close to $1.5 million on instrumentation and analysis of Ritschard Dam, as officials worked to develop a plan to rehab the structure. Officials discovered the additional settlement of Ritschard was caused by a lack of consolidation in both the upstream and downstream shelves, which hold the true core of the dam.

After officials from the River District determined a cause for the settlement of Ritschard they began considering fixes, which were estimated to cost in the $20 million range.


“At that time we said, ‘let’s employ an expert peer review panel to kind of look over our shoulders, to look over our engineers shoulders and make sure we are doing the right thing’.” Currier said. “The experts came back and told us, ‘we are not sure you need to do anything’.”

Currier explained the team of experts, made up of former engineers from the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, told the River District that while they may not be happy with the continued settling of the dam the settlement alone doesn’t necessarily pose a significant risk. “They told us, ‘you understand the problem. What is the risk associated with the problem?” Currier said. “We started looking at it probabilistically as opposed to deterministically.”

Officials from the River District then began looking at probabilities, such as the probability of an overtopping flood on Ritschard and the likelihood of a full dam failure. An overtopping flood would require more than 80,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water flowing into Wolford Mountain Reservoir from the surrounding area, and even that amount of water would not necessarily overtop the dam, with the emergency spillway filling with excess water. Officials said the chance of such a scenario happening in any given year is roughly one chance in a million.

“The odds of having a dam failure, associated with ongoing movement of the dam; as a practical matter is essentially nonexistent,” Currier said. Currier went on to say that the River District now believes there is no technically demanding reason to conduct a full rehabilitation project on Ritschard.


The River District still has plans to restore the crest of the dam and bring it back to its original height. They will also continue to monitor Ritschard closely for continued settlement, which is expected. Currier said the River District will periodically reassess their position on Ritschard. “We will go back through a risk analysis process…maybe every five years or so.”

“The last chapter is yet to be written in this book,” Currier said. “But for the time being we have gone back to operating the reservoir full. The dam poses no real hazards to anyone.”

NRDC: 6 Ways You Can Help Keep Our Water Clean

COE-Trash-splash logo-toilet

From the Natural Resources Defense Council (Andrew Postman):

Simply by going about your daily routines—using cleaning products, walking the dog—you might be unknowingly contributing to the pollution of our already struggling waterways. Luckily, there are a few incredibly easy ways to reduce your impact.

1. Take a hard look at your outdoor surfaces.

Stormwater flows across hard materials, like concrete or asphalt, and into storm drains—bringing all the dirty stuff it picked up along the way. Stop these pollution streams on your own property by using gravel, paver stones, wood, or other porous materials whenever possible. If a hard surface is unavoidable (say, in the case of a driveway), dig a shallow trench along the border and add plants or gravel to catch the runoff before it travels too far.

2. Remember, your toilet is not a trash can.

Never flush nondegradable products, like baby wipes or plastic tampon applicators. They can throw a huge wrench into the sewage treatment process and wind up littering beaches and water. (Who wants to walk along a beach and step in their own garbage?) And never dump old pills in the toilet, either. Instead, bring them to a local pharmacy that has a take-back program.

3. And neither is your sink.

Don’t let paint, used oil, chemical cleaners, or other questionable household products go down the drain. These items contain toxic ingredients (think sodium hypochlorite, ammonia, formaldehyde) we don’t want in our water supply. To find out about hazardous-waste collection days and facilities, search by product on Earth911 or contact your local sanitation, public works, or environmental health department.

4. Pick up after Fido.

You’re not just being a good neighbor. Scooping up pet waste keeps that bacteria-laden crap (literally) from running into storm drains and water supplies. The most practical of the planet-friendly disposal methods is to tie it in a recycled-plastic pet-waste bag and throw it in the trash, but check your local ordinances.

5. Be a more careful car owner.

Good maintenance can reduce the leaking of oil, coolant, antifreeze, and other nasty liquids that are carried by rainwater down driveways or through parking lots and then seep into groundwater supplies. Go a step further by always choosing a car wash over hosing down your ride yourself. The pros are required to drain their wastewater into sewer systems, where the water is treated for all the bad stuff before being discharged. Many even recycle that water.

6. Dish the dirt(y water).

Without tattletales, polluters will just keep on keeping on. If you see suspect behavior in your community, get hooked up with a local environmental group that can help by contacting the Clean Water Network or Waterkeeper Alliance. When small organizations work with bigger ones (e.g., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, NRDC) to force industries to follow the rules, real change can happen. (And it feels pretty darn good.)

Hundreds of boaters raft Dolores for first time in four years — The Cortez Journal

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

Over the weekend, hundreds of boaters took advantage of a three-day whitewater release on the Dolores River below McPhee dam, the first in four years.

Reservoir managers said Sunday, the minimum rafting flows will continue until at least Tuesday, June 7.

The weekend whitewater release was announced last week on short notice, and within hours, the boat ramps at Bradfield Bridge and Dove Creek Pumphouse began filling up local boaters and their brightly colored rafts, kayaks, canoes and dories…

Friday morning, a parade of boats disappeared into the sunny Ponderosa Gorge, the first leg of 97-mile stretch to Slick Rock that features rapids, camp spots, remote hiking and spectacular scenery.

Bears roamed the shorelines and campsites, and were startled by the sudden presence of humans. River otters swam among boaters, and desert big horn sheep looked on from above.

A new rock fall in the river at mile-marker 17.2 can be skirted river left.

Dolores River watershed
Dolores River watershed

Loveland’s waterways are soaked in history — Loveland Reporter-Herald

Lake Loveland
Lake Loveland

Here’s a guest column from Olivia Lowe writing for the Loveland Reporter Herald. Here’s an excerpt:

For a few months now people, including my husband, have asked me to do a story about Loveland’s pioneer ditches.

They wanted to know how many, how old, how long and any other odd tidbits of information I could find. Once I started the research I was both fascinated and overwhelmed. At one point I decided to scrap the story because water is not only contentious, but it is complicated as well. I also came to the conclusion that volumes of books and essays have been written on the subject for a reason, because there is no way it can be covered in one 700-word column. And yet, here it is, a column about ditches. That said, I have pared it down to the bits I found most interesting.

There are currently nine ditches, three ditch exchanges, plus what are known as lateral and transfer ditches, pulling water out of the Big Thompson River in the Loveland area.

Start with the Handy Ditch, which is first in line but not first in priority. Its headgate is situated just south of Sylvan Dam. To the east and last in line is the Hillsborough Ditch at County Road 9 between East First Street and Colo. 402. Loveland’s seven other ditches lie in between…

Back in 1893 we had a grand total of three ditches. The Big Thompson Ditch was decreed in 1861, the Mariano, later named Home Supply, was next in May of 1863. One month later, Farmers Ditch was decreed. The Old Barnes Ditch came next in 1865. It was named after David Barnes, which is odd because Mr. Barnes and his wife Sarah did not homestead here until 1870. The Chubbuck Ditch, also known as the English Ditch and later named the Loveland & Greeley Ditch, was decreed in November 1865. This meandering waterway runs along First Street for a bit and then bends north up to Boyd Lake, where it leans to the east and heads toward Greeley…

If you do not plan on using your appropriated water right away, then you will need to dig a basin to hold it. Loveland’s first reservoir was dug in 1883. Today it goes by Donath Lake, but I have also heard it referred to as Dykeman Reservoir. Next was Mariano decreed in 1888. Later called Home Supply Reservoir and known to us all now as Boedecker Lake.

Lake Loveland is also a reservoir. The farmers decided that rather than allowing excess water to float away forever, they could hold some in reserve for the late-summer crops. Prior to its official decree in 1883 it was 145 acres of stagnant and shallow water; five feet of summer stink hemmed in by a sandstone ridge. Hayes Lake, as it was called, was determined to be the perfect fit for a reservoir. By enlarging Barnes Ditch for a distance of two miles from its head (about a mile west of Wilson Avenue and U.S. 34) to the lake, they could increase its capacity to 146 acres with a water depth of 46½ feet.

EPA: Home Drinking Water Filtration Fact Sheet

Photo via http://wholehousewatersystem.com
Photo via http://wholehousewatersystem.com

Click here to read the fact sheet. Here’s an excerpt:

Home Water Treatment Facts

Americans spend billions of dollars each year on home water treatment units.According to theWater Quality Association, more than four out of 10 Americans use a home water treatment unit.These units range from simple pitchers costing less than $20 to sophisticated reverse osmosis units costing hundreds of dollars.

Some people use a home water treatment unit to improve the taste of their tap water. Others treat their water because of health concerns.While EPA does not endorse specific units, the Agency does set and enforce national standards for the tap water provided by public water systems.

Drinking water can reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants.As long as those contaminants are at levels no higher than EPA standards, the water is considered safe to drink for healthy people. People with severely weakened immune systems or other specific health conditions, or those concerned about specific contaminants present in local drinking water, may wish to further treat their water at home or purchase high quality bottled water.

Before purchasing a home water treatment unit, consider local water quality, cost and maintenance of the unit, product performance, and certifications to make sure that the unit will meet your needs.

#Runoff news: Bureau of Reclamation increases water releases at Lake Estes — Loveland Reporter-Herald

Olympus Dam photo via the US Bureau of Reclamation.
Olympus Dam photo via the US Bureau of Reclamation.

From the US Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth) via the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

With the warmer weather and more snow melting, runoff is increasing, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.

In a press release Sunday, a Reclamation spokesman said the agency planned to increase releases from Olympus Dam in Estes Park on Sunday from 125 cubic feet per second to 175 cfs.

“Please be safe around the river,” spokesman Peter Soeth said.

The dam at Lake Estes is part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

For updates on water releases from the dam, visit http://www.facebook.com/LakeEstesandOlyDam.

City of Rifle bans outdoor watering

Rifle Gap Reservoir via the Applegate Group
Rifle Gap Reservoir via the Applegate Group

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Erin McIntyre):

Problems with the city of Rifle’s water treatment system have led officials to ban outdoor watering for at least the next few days.

The announcement came in the middle of the first heat wave of summer, with 90-degree highs forecast through Tuesday by the National Weather Service.

The city asked its 9,700 customers to curb their water use as much as possible, and prohibited any outdoor use of water, forcing businesses such as car washes to shut down until the problem is fixed.

Utilities Director Jim Miller said Rifle law enforcement officers were tasked with reminding residents not to water outdoors, temporarily policing water use.

Though residents with wells or irrigation water from ditches were not included in the ban, use of potable drinking water from the municipal system is prohibited until further notice. Residents were notified to stop watering outside with a reverse 911 phone call.

The problems started on June 1, when a supply line that provided water from the Colorado River to the main pump station broke. The 14-inch water line, which runs under railroad tracks and a state highway, had a major leak that was resolved by the following morning, Miller said.

But what transpired was a bigger problem — the initial leak put stress on the pump station that brings the water from the supply line to the Graham Mesa treatment plant, and all of the check valves broke, causing the malfunction.

Though the city has a second, smaller treatment plant and pump station on Beaver Creek, located on Taughenbaugh Mesa, its capacity provides only roughly 10 percent of what the system demands, Miller said.

Right now officials are trying to resolve the situation by hooking up a temporary pumping system to feed the Graham Mesa treatment plant.

Miller encouraged residents to conserve water indoors as well as refraining from watering outside.

“Everyone should curb their water use,” he said. “People need to take this seriously because it’s what delivers water to most of the city of Rifle.”

Residents will be notified when the watering restrictions have been lifted, on the city’s website (http://www.rifleco.org) and via reverse 911 phone calls, Miller said.