Work in progress

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Construction at Elkhead Reservoir is on schedule.

The Colorado River Water Con-servation District has awarded a con-struction contract to Ames Con-str-uction of Denver.

The company is moving its equ-ip-ment to the construction site, setting up a staging area and cutting down trees.

The River District is working to raise the dam at Elkhead to increase the reservoir's capacity by 12,000 acre-feet.

"The big focus this year is the construction of the new spillway and outlet work," project supervisor Dan Birch said.

Ames will do some excavation work, but the critical part of staying on schedule is getting the concrete in place, Birch said.

The expanded reservoir will include a large concrete tower stem-m-ing from the water. It will control the gates that release water into the river. The tower is similar to one at Wolford Reservoir near Kremmling.

One of the construction crew's first jobs will be constructing a road across the drained reservoir. People who need to get to the east side of the reservoir can drive this detour after the road across the dam is closed. Birch expected the detour to be in place by late April.

Some people in Moffat County have questioned why the River District drained the reservoir during the winter, rather than during the summer when the extra water would have raised the river and benefited ranchers.

Moffat County Commissioner Darryl Steele said this concern turn-ed out to be the first order of business at the most recent meeting of the Maybell Irrigation Ditch Distr-ict.

"They really upset some people in the community," Steele said. "Why drain it in December rather than the summer when it would have done some good?"

But last summer, the River District didn't know whether it would have all the approvals it needed before beginning construction, Birch said.

Also, the River District wanted the reservoir's recreation users to have one more good season before the reservoir and state park were closed to public use. Neither will open until construction is completed in 2007.

Waiting until summer to drain the reservoir would have made the expansion a three-year project, River District spokesman Peter Roessmann said.

After the project is completed,, water will be available to lease for human purposes, Birch said.

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