Waterton Canyon reopening delayed until March

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Time to complete the project, contract issues cited

By Emile Hallez

Denver Water has postponed opening Waterton Canyon until March 1 because a contractor hired to dredge massive amounts of sediment from Strontia Springs Reservoir is running behind schedule.

In addition, less than half of the dredging work specified in the $30 million contract has been completed, Denver Water has paid the contractor, New York-based Sevenson Environmental Services, only a little more than half of the $30 million and the two groups are locked in an out-of-court contract dispute, the details of which have not been divulged.

A representative from Sevenson Environmental could not be reached for comment.

Waterton Canyon, a popular hiking spot and starting point of the Colorado Trail, was closed to the public in August 2010 so Sevenson could begin siphoning the sediment. Denver Water had planned to reopen the park on Dec. 31, but on Dec. 20, it announced the extended closure, citing a need for Sevenson to “demobilize” heavy machinery and other equipment.

“The project was originally scheduled to be completed at the end of this month,” Denver Water spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said. “I’m not sure why they need more time to remove the machinery. Sometimes that happens in projects. … We’ll get it open as soon as we can.”

The dredging was necessary to clear about 60 percent of an estimated 1 million cubic yards of ash and sediment lodged against the dam, material that was washed into the reservoir following the Hayman and Buffalo Creek forest fires and heavyrains afterward.

The contract between Denver Water and Sevenson specifies a dredging of625,000 cubic yards, but only 288,000 cubic yards have been removed, Chesney said, adding that that part of the process is complete.

So far, Denver Water has only paid Sevenson $16.5 million, Chesney said.

“It was contracted for about $30 million,” she said. “We’ve paid part of the contract thus far, and I don’t know what will happen moving forward.”

Sevenson was successful in removing much of the ashen sediment, the material of most concern in affecting water quality, Chesney said. But additional dredging in future years remains a possibility.

 “At this point we’re looking at the options. … We’re studying it, and we’re going to determine the best steps forward,” Chesney said. “We’re hoping that the location and amount of sediment that was removed will allow us to keep the canyon open for the next several years.”

The 288,000 cubic yards of dredged sediment are being stored in old filter beds near the park’s entrance. The heaps of material will be stabilized with native vegetation, Chesney said.

During peak usage in the summer, Waterton Canyon draws up to 2,000 visitors per day, including hikers, cyclists and fisherman, officials said.


Contact Emile Hallez at emile@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233 ext. 22. 

For updates, check www.ColumbineCourier.com.



Harriman Dam project also extended

Denver Water also recently extended the estimated time required to reconstruct an earthen dam at Harriman Lake Park on West Quincy Avenue between South Simms and South Kipling streets from six months to one year. The 138-year-old dam currently does not meet the desired capacity of the reservoir, Denver Water says.

Because the water level will be raised by three feet, much of the park’s existing wetland area will be flooded, and Denver Water needs additional time to reestablish new wetland habitat after the dam’s construction.

“The year is needed to allow for enough time for those wetlands to be successfully reconstructed,” Chesney said, noting that new saplings for the wetland are being prepared. “Right now the plants are growing in a nursery, and they need time. … After the dam is constructed, they’ll be planted.”