The US Forest Service and Coloradan entities introduced a proposal to remove a dam on the upper South Platte River. Lower Eleven Mile Dam is more of a diversion structure, but its effect on the river is the same. The structure prevents fish passage and sediment transport. Whereas many dam projects have clear ‘sides,’ this dam is classified as abandoned and serves no purpose. Removing the structure would restore connectivity in the immediate region, benefiting aquatic species and river functions.
Eleven Mile Dam, also known as Lake George Diversion Dam, was built in 1952 and was operated by Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU). In the early 1990s, however, CSU’s special use permit expired, and the utility sought to transfer ownership, according to the project’s description. Since then, the structure remained with no permit nor is it constrained by any water or diversion rights. “The structure is no longer operated and/or maintained and is no longer used, needed, or inspected by a specific entity,” reads the proposal. The structure is useless, making its removal exceptionally plausible.
The proposal outlines how authorities will remove the dam from the river. Using heavy machinery, operators would first remove the built sediment behind the structure. Then, the concrete structure would be dismantled and removed, followed by stream bank and channel restoration. However, proponents still need to secure permitting and funding hurdles. Current estimates, put dam removal construction to begin by end of 2023.
The Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP) has protected the watershed for more than two decades. The Coalition is very involved in the effort to remove Eleven Mile Dam and restore the watershed. Jane Mannon of CUSP said, “We are optimistic about the project timeline and our ability to engage partners to piece together the resources necessary to begin construction in 2023.”
Local anglers and fly fishing businesses are excited about the project, too. Jon Easdon of Angler’s Covey said: “This proposed project is great news for not only that part of 11 mile canyon, but for the entire stretch. Restoration and habitat improvement greatly encourages resident fish to thrive and would also give migrating fish a chance to move freely throughout the canyon. The proposed access improvements would also create more desirable recreation points, ultimately making use of this otherwise ‘dead’ area.”
To learn more about this project, check out this description by the US Forest Service. Removing this useless structure is a no brainer, and thankfully the effort seems to have all the necessary support. But it is important to note the thousands of abounded structures dotting the country that are choking river ecosystems. If you want to make your voice heard, feel free to submit a comment here.
Pictures courtesy of Angler’s Covey.