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Omaha District

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Tri-Lakes Dams capture 25,000 acre feet of runoff

Published May 15, 2015
Chatfield Dam was the second of three dams built to reduce flooding risks in the Denver area. Located southwest of Denver on the South Platte River, construction of the dam was begun in 1967 and was completed in 1975. The dam measures approximately 13,136 feet in length with a maximum height of 147 feet from the streambed to the top of the dam.

Chatfield Dam was the second of three dams built to reduce flooding risks in the Denver area. Located southwest of Denver on the South Platte River, construction of the dam was begun in 1967 and was completed in 1975. The dam measures approximately 13,136 feet in length with a maximum height of 147 feet from the streambed to the top of the dam.

Chatfield Dam was the second of three dams built to reduce flooding risks in the Denver area. Located southwest of Denver on the South Platte River, construction of the dam was begun in 1967 and was completed in 1975.

Chatfield Dam was the second of three dams built to reduce flooding risks in the Denver area. Located southwest of Denver on the South Platte River, construction of the dam was begun in 1967 and was completed in 1975.

A round of storms Sept. 14, 2013, impacted the Cherry Creek basin causing pool elevations at Cherry Creek reservoir to enter the flood control pool. Cherry Creek peaked at a pool elevation of 5553.4 ft on Sept. 25, more than 12 feet below the record pool of 5565.8 feet in 1973. Major transportation routes and a large population, which makes up the Denver metropolitan area are located downstream from Cherry Creek Dam.

A round of storms Sept. 14, 2013, impacted the Cherry Creek basin causing pool elevations at Cherry Creek reservoir to enter the flood control pool. Cherry Creek peaked at a pool elevation of 5553.4 ft on Sept. 25, more than 12 feet below the record pool of 5565.8 feet in 1973. Major transportation routes and a large population, which makes up the Denver metropolitan area are located downstream from Cherry Creek Dam.

Cherry Creek Dam and Reservoir Project near Aurora, Colo.

Cherry Creek Dam and Reservoir Project near Aurora, Colo.

Bear Creek Dam is located on the southwest edge of suburban Lakewood at the confluence of Bear Creek and Turkey Creek, construction of the dam was authorized in 1968 and was completed in 1982. Bear Creek Lake is less than 1 mile long and has an average depth of 48 feet. The lake drains an area of approximately 236 square miles.

Bear Creek Dam is located on the southwest edge of suburban Lakewood at the confluence of Bear Creek and Turkey Creek, construction of the dam was authorized in 1968 and was completed in 1982. Bear Creek Lake is less than 1 mile long and has an average depth of 48 feet. The lake drains an area of approximately 236 square miles.

Following heavy rains which fell mid-September in Colorado, the pool elevation at the Bear Creek reservoir rose several feet. At 4 a.m., Sept. 15, the reservoir pool elevation surpassed its previous record elevation of 5587.1 feet, and peaked at a pool elevation of 5607.9 ft on Sept. 22, shown here. Bear Creek Dam did what it was designed to do by catching the runoff and reducing flooding risks to the hundreds of homes located downstream.

Following heavy rains which fell mid-September in Colorado, the pool elevation at the Bear Creek reservoir rose several feet. At 4 a.m., Sept. 15, the reservoir pool elevation surpassed its previous record elevation of 5587.1 feet, and peaked at a pool elevation of 5607.9 ft on Sept. 22, shown here. Bear Creek Dam did what it was designed to do by catching the runoff and reducing flooding risks to the hundreds of homes located downstream.

Bear Creek Lake, located on Bear Creek Dam on the southwest edge of suburban Lakewood, Colo., continues to receive inflows from the ongoing rainfall and runoff. At 4 a.m., Sept. 15, the reservoir pool elevation surpassed its previous record elevation of 5587.1 feet, which occurred in 1995. The reservoir pool elevation at midnight, Sept. 16, was 5593.2 feet.

Bear Creek Lake, located on Bear Creek Dam on the southwest edge of suburban Lakewood, Colo., continues to receive inflows from the ongoing rainfall and runoff. At 4 a.m., Sept. 15, the reservoir pool elevation surpassed its previous record elevation of 5587.1 feet, which occurred in 1995. The reservoir pool elevation at midnight, Sept. 16, was 5593.2 feet.

OMAHA, NE - Heavy rain and mountain snowmelt runoff since the beginning of May have produced high flows along the South Platte River in Colorado and its contributing tributary streams. The three Denver-area dams operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District and referred to as the Tri-Lakes Projects are Chatfield, Cherry Creek, and Bear Creek Dams. 

These three reservoirs have captured a combined 25,000 acre-feet of flood water during this period. One acre-foot of water is equivalent to water covering one acre of land one foot deep. The combined storage capacity of these three reservoirs is nearly 314,000 acre feet of water.

The Omaha District routinely conducts inspections and monitors all three projects as a part of its Dam Safety Program. Surveillance frequencies are increased during periods of higher pools. All three projects are performing satisfactorily with no significant dam safety issues resulting from the recent rains and snowmelt runoff.

Without the Tri-Lakes Projects, the estimated water levels would have been one foot higher at the Denver streamgage on the South Platte River last weekend.

Cherry Creek and Chatfield Lakes rose about 3 feet and 8 feet, respectively, due to the higher inflows.  Releases from both dams have been increased to evacuate stored flood water following lower downstream river stages.  Since the inflows have dropped and the releases have been increased, the lakes have begun dropping.  Evacuating the flood water stored at Cherry Creek is expected to be complete within the next week while Chatfield could remain in the flood pool for the next several weeks as the snowmelt runoff continues.

Bear Creek Lake, located on Bear Creek on the southwest edge of suburban Lakewood, Colo., has risen over 37 feet since May 1 due to heavy rain and snowmelt runoff. It is currently at pool elevation 5597.9 feet which occupies 30 percent of the flood pool. The reservoir is expected to stay in the flood pool for the next month as the snowmelt runoff continues.

As part of the system operation plan to evacuate flood storage, current releases from the Tri-Lakes dams are 500 cfs from Bear Creek Reservoir, 1900 cfs from Chatfield Reservoir, and 250 cfs from Cherry Creek Reservoir. These releases are coordinated with the State of Colorado Division of Water Resources. Releases were reduced last weekend during the threat of heavy rain to create channel capacity for local runoff downstream of the dams. All Tri-Lakes releases will continue to be adjusted based on reservoir and hydrologic conditions. 

Pool elevation data for these and other Corps-operated dams, updated hourly, can be tracked online at http://www.nwd-mr.usace.army.mil/rcc/plots/plots.html#omaha_plots.

Public safety is a priority and the public is urged to rely on local emergency management officials for guidance regarding the flood response.


Contact
Eileen Williamson
402-995-2417
eileen.l.williamson@usace.army.mil
or
Kathryn Seefus

Release no. 150515-001