Elkhead Reservoir construction hits milestone


A project to almost double the size of the Elkhead Reservoir, which straddles the Moffat-Routt County line, reached a milestone on Thursday when workers topped out the new dam 25 feet above the old one.

The Colorado River District has spearheaded the enlargement to create new water storage to benefit endangered fish in the Yampa River as well as industry and future growth in Craig and Moffat County.

The dam is headed for substantial completion by November, in time to catch spring runoff from Elkhead Creek, a tributary of the Yampa River.

While the dam is topped out, workers continue to shape the top of the dam to support the Moffat County road that runs across the crest, said Ray Tenney, the Colorado River District's project manager.

"The big news is that the borrow areas for the earthen dam are being reclaimed to create new campgrounds and day-use areas at the reservoir," Tenney said.

"We will be creating a landform for a campground of about 10 acres for Colorado State Parks and the City of Craig to develop on the west side of the reservoir, in the vicinity of the boat ramp," Tenney said.

Another landform of about seven acres will allow for the development of a second campground near the old Bear Paw campground, Tenney said.

"I think the schedule looks pretty good to have a few amenities in place before next spring," Craig City Manager Jim Ferree said. "Construction of recreational facilities will continue throughout next summer."

State Park officials said the public should not plan on camping next spring, but the boat ramp and day-use areas may be ready.

Tenney said that just as construction of the dam was a partnership, so is the opportunity to create new recreational facilities.

The reservoir has been closed to the public for two years to allow for dam construction. Since the original reservoir was constructed in 1974, it has been a popular camping and boating spot for residents and visitors of Moffat and Routt counties.

Tenney noted that construction activities will benefit the reservoir's popular smallmouth bass fishery. Smallmouth bass like rip-rap, and they will find more of it on the dam face and in several mitigation areas.

Tenney also said waste rock from the project is being placed below the new high-water line in random clusters, also to promote smallmouth bass habitat.

The $31 million Elkhead Reservoir en--largement is the result of a partnership of the Colorado River District, the Upper Colorado Endangered Fish Recovery Program, the City of Craig, the state of Colorado and the Craig Station Power Plant.

Individual1y, Craig and Colorado State Parks have secured about $1 million to improve recreational facilities at the reservoir, a project that will take advantage of earthmoving work required to build the dam.

"We are handing off terrain that Craig and Colorado State Parks can take advantage of for the public," Tenney said.

To read more about the Elkhead project, visit www.coloradoriverdistrict.org.

  • Dam height increase: 25 feet
  • New high water mark increase: 20 feet
  • New storage: 11,750 acre-feet
  • New total storage: 25,000 acre-feet
  • Water for fish: 7,000 acre-feet

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