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Here's why the water levels in Lake Estes will drop in late September, October

Lake Estes_ Alaine Nicole
Posted at 12:19 PM, Sep 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-30 13:42:35-04

LOVELAND, Colo. — Estes Park residents and visitors may notice Lake Estes becoming noticeably lower from late September through mid October.

The reason? The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said it plans to reduce the water levels in the lake, which is just east of downtown Estes Park, so crews can complete scheduled maintenance and upgrades on the Olympus Dam. This includes installing new technology and, as the Bureau of Reclamation explains, it will help the department "meet the future power and water needs of customers on the Front Range."

Beginning on Sept. 30, crews will start lowering Lake Estes from its typical level of 7,472 feet in elevation. It will drop about 12 feet by Oct. 10, to an elevation of 7,460 feet. The maximum depth of the lake is 45 feet.

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Lake Estes will stay at this level until Dec. 19, when the Bureau of Reclamation begins refilling it.

“Key focus areas for Reclamation are continuity of operations and a culture of safety,” said Jeff Rieker, area manager of the eastern Colorado area office at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. “We continue to re-invest in our infrastructure to supply reliable water and clean power to our customers.”

In the same time period, crews at the Marys Lake Powerplant, which is southwest of Estes Park, will work on projects as well, including a unit runner replacement and turbine overhaul. This will result in a more efficient, reliable plant and reduction in future outages, the Bureau of Reclamation said.

Lakes Estes is an important player in the the Colorado-Big Thompson Project power system, which diverts water from the Colorado River on the west side of the Continental Divide underneath the divide and to about 1,021,000 residents, plus 615,000 acres of irrigated farmland in northeastern Colorado, according to Northern Water, which is working with the Bureau of Reclamation on the project.

The Olympus Dam, and subsequently Lake Estes, was constructed in 1947 and 1948. The lake has about 5 miles of shoreline.