Denver Water plans for construction this summer |

Denver Water plans for construction this summer

Lu Snyder

SUMMIT COUNTY – Bernie Baltich has seen difficult times, but he always manages to get through them.

This summer might well be one of those tough times.

Baltich, co-owner and president of Osprey Adventures, operates the full-service Frisco Marina and rents powerboats, sailboats, canoes and kayaks. Because the marina is located at an inlet, it is more vulnerable to low water levels than is the Dillon Marina.

And this summer the water looks to be low – not simply because of the drought.

Denver Water already was looking at the possibility of lowering water levels this summer for necessary repair work at the spillway.

“The drought gives us an opportunity to do the construction this year,” said Denver Water dam safety engineer Jim Weldon. ” So we’re gearing up to do that.”

According to Weldon, the concrete in the spillway has deteriorated, and needs to be removed and replaced. Denver Water is looking at replacing it with new concrete or, possibly, a steel lining, but that has yet to be decided.

The estimated cost of the project is $1.2 million.

The board of directors at Denver Water already has approved the design of the project – the description of what work needs to be done and how it will be handled, said Denver Water spokesperson Trina McGuire-Collier.

The board has yet to approve the construction. Weldon said he expects final approval in May, as long as the weather cooperates and board members do not change their mind.

In summers with normal precipitation, the lake level reaches 9,017 or 9,018, Baltich said.

But to perform the spillway construction, the water can be no higher than 9,010, Weldon said. The water must be below a natural platform for the construction equipment, located at 9,011.

Due to the current drought conditions, water experts project the reservoir cannot fill to its capacity this summer. Weldon said they expect the maximum water level to reach 9,007 and then recede – making the summer ripe for the spillway construction.

“From a recreation standpoint, I think it’s good they’re doing this construction project ,” said Neil Sperandeo, recreation manager for Denver Water. “In my mind, it does make sense that this is an appropriate time to do it.”

If they chose not to do the construction work this summer, when the lake level will probably naturally be low, Denver Water would need to lower water levels next year instead – which would be two years of low water and two difficult seasons for Baltich.

Though Baltich said he doesn’t foresee problems with boat rentals due to the lower lake levels, he does expect some hurdles with boats in the slips and moorings. The docks are at 9,006 – only a foot above this summer’s highest anticipated water level, said Frisco interim town manager Tim Mack.

“Where we’ll need help from the town of Frisco is accommodating the slip and mooring guests,” Baltich said.

The town already plans to dredge the marina in the next month or so, to deepen the water in the area. Still, Baltich said a crane probably will be needed to put boats into deep water.

Water levels at the marina were a topic of discussion at Tuesday’s Frisco council work session. Town officials are looking at ways to ensure the marina can operate despite lower water levels.

Although this year’s anticipated low water levels are unusual, they cannot be ruled out in the future – construction work or not. Baltich is working with the town to find a long-term solution to make the marina adaptable to varying water levels.

But town officials are not obligated to do anything. They can assist the marina by purchasing new moorings or new dock systems, or they may choose to do nothing at all, Mack said. No decision has been made.

Still, Baltich remains optimistic about the summer. He’s gotten through difficult seasons before, he said.

There’s also the possibility Mother Nature might help him out. Several years ago, experts predicted drought conditions and the marina began the season with low water levels, he said.

“We went into the season thinking we were in for a massive drought,” Baltich said. “(Then) it just started raining and it didn’t stop. It came to a point that everything was waterlogged; it rained that much. You just never know. Things can change. So being the positive thinker I am, we aren’t panicking.”

Weldon agreed. As things stand, construction on the spillway will proceed this summer as long as the board approves it. However, with one or more heavy snowstorms or rainfalls, Denver Water might re-examine its plans.

If construction proceeds as expected, Weldon said, work should begin in June and be completed by the end of 2002. He said Denver Water does not plan to close the road or the bike path during construction.

Lu Snyder can be reached at 970-668-3998 x203 or

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