Aug 272002
Authors: Erica Mirehouse

Horsetooth Reservoir has provided students with a place to hike, climb, fish, boat and bike for decades.

But because of the construction that began early in 2000, recreation at Horsetooth has been put on hold.

“It’s a real bummer that the reservoir is closed,” said Adam Garry, a junior marketing major. “The construction began when I was a freshman and will not be completed until after I graduate.”

Garry, an avid wake-boarder, said that one of the reasons he chose CSU was because of the convenience of Horsetooth for recreation.

“Now the closest place to go is Carter Lake, which is located south of Loveland,” he said.

The modernization work began after research concluded there was a problem with Horsetooth Dam’s foundation.

“In 1997, we started a drill exploration program in order to install new equipment, collect core samples and conduct research to discover how much the geology of the dams has changed since they were built in the late 1940’s,” said Kara Lamb, public information coordinator for the Bureau of Reclamation.

There was a line of limestone running north to south on the western side of the reservoir, Lamb said. Because limestone is porous, the concern was the increased seepage of the dam.

Because so many people live downstream from these dams, the modernization was necessary.

“In order to do work on the dams, we have had to section off areas for the safety of the public,” Lamb said. “We had a really hard time closing the recreation areas.”

To make matters worse, Horestooth also had to enforce security measures because of September 11, Lamb said. Since that day, all dams have been closed to the public.

“You can’t hike, fish, or ride your bike down the dams,” she said. “Even if no work was being done, recreation areas would still be closed due to post-September 11 security concerns.”

These security restrictions require that people stay 100 feet away from the dams when on land and 500 feet away from the dams when in the water, according to the Horsetooth Web site. Look for signs that mark closed areas.

Phase three of the construction process on Horsetooth Dam began on Friday. This phase will address seepage underneath the dam with construction of a clay blanket upstream of Horsetooth Dam along the bed of the reservoir, Lamb said.

“The blanket will line the limestone closest to the dam where water has been entering and escaping,” she said. “Reservoir levels will begin to slowly rise again once the blanket is completed.”

This construction should take about a month with the work concluding around early November.

“I hope that the construction is completed on schedule so that the water level is high enough for boating recreation to begin in the spring,” said Travis Schurz, a senior technical journalism and business management double major.

Motorized boating recreation at Horsetooth ended late July when water levels dropped below the boat ramps, Lamb said.

Schurz and a couple of his friends did not realize how low the levels were when they went wakeboarding at Horsetooth on July 17.

“There were low, unmarked hazard areas throughout the reservoir,” Schurz said. “We were going along, pulling a wake boarder, when we suddenly hit a wall of mud.”

“We killed the boat and when we looked back, our friend Rob was on his wakeboard in about six inches of water,” he said.

When the reservoir was closed to all motorized boating recreation just two days later, Schurz was not surprised.

According to the Horsetooth Web site, there is water in the reservoir today. The north swim beach boat ramp is open and so is camping around the reservoir.

However, the placement of the clay blanket will only allow water levels to rise to the reconstruction limit of 5,360 feet.

“This reconstruction limit will remain in place for one more season so that work on the other dams can be completed,” Lamb said. “All modernization work on the dams should be complete by fall 2003.”

All water levels (drought willing) will return to the normal level of 5,430 feet for the 2004 water year and recreation season.

Closeout activities will include landscape rehabilitation and road repaving, she said.

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