The project, a $20 million undertaking that began in 2013, will ensure the century-old dam will operate safely for another 100 years. For the upcoming phase of construction, Denver Water will drain the reservoir so that construction work on the structure continues safely. Antero Dam was built in 1909 by Canfield and Shields of Greeley, and purchased by Denver Water in 1924.
“The primary benefit of this project is to bring the dam up to current safety standards, which will allow us to restore our normal water levels,” said Bill Dressel, Denver Water dam safety engineer.
Antero Reservoir has been operating at a reduced capacity since May 2011, when Denver Water lowered water levels at the reservoir to investigate the condition of the dam and as a safety precaution to reduce water pressure and seepage. The reservoir has been operating at a height of 16 to17 feet since then. When the project is complete, the water levels at Antero will return to a level of 18 feet, or 20,000 acre-feet of water, except in times of drought.
“While the short-term impacts of drawing down the reservoir are not ideal for those who love recreation at Antero, this project will provide long-term benefits to the fishery by increasing and maintaining the depth of the reservoir, which will reduce the threat of winter fish kill,” said Brandon Ransom, Denver Water’s manager of recreation.
Denver Water will set a date to begin drawing down the reservoir based on the progress of the construction project and weather conditions, particularly the spring snowmelt. Once runoff season begins, Denver Water will monitor conditions and work closely with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to salvage the fish in the reservoir. Antero Reservoir will close to the public once the drawdown begins.
When the park is closed, the fish from Antero will be relocated to other reservoirs in Park County, said Tom Eisenman, Park County administration officer. “We’re called the ‘Park for All Seasons’ for a reason. Even though closing Antero Reservoir will have an impact on our local businesses and the economy, Park County has other similarly accessible locations for anglers, water-lovers and outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy.”
In the coming months, Denver Water will be meeting with local businesses to discuss the potential impacts to the county of the reservoir’s closing.
Barring any weather or construction delays, refilling could begin as soon as spring of 2016. Generally, it takes from one to four years to refill the reservoir, depending on the amount of snowfall and timing of snowmelt. While it may be sooner, the safe bet is that the reservoir will return to its normal operation by late 2018, when construction ends.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife will be increasing the bag and possession limit to eight fish, with no size restrictions, effective Saturday, Jan. 10. Questions regarding fishing at Antero can be directed to Colorado Parks and Wildlife at 303-291-7227.