The Ashton Dam has been a source of hydroelectricity for nearly 100 years. Over time, the dam has needed a little help to keep up with rapidly changing construction standards to ensure the dam's lifespan for years to come.
Work to repair and improve the Ashton Dam is entering its third and final year. The extensive project will bring the dam to modern construction standards and correct internal erosion caused by the dam's age.
Workers said this final phase of the project will make use of the new diversion tunnel built in 2010 for bypassing the river around the dam. The first two phases included repairing the downstream portion of the dam and constructing the by-pass tunnel.
"Of course today, the use of electricity is so much more extensive [than it was] back then," said David Eskelsen, spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power. "This is a relatively small part of our overall generating resource mix, but it's still valuable electricity."
The amount of electricity that this dam can generate is about 7.9 megawatts, enough electricity to power 3,900 of today's typical homes.
During this time, the reservoir will gradually lower 20 feet, so that water quality and fish habitation are not affected. Once the drawdown is complete, the last bit of reconstruction will begin. Workers expect to wrap up the project this fall.
"It'll take the rest of the summer and into the fall and it will be completed at that point," said Eskelsen. "Once it's done the dam will be up to construction standard and will hopefully last for many years to come."
During this final phase, the reservoir and work area around the dam will be closed to recreational use for safety reasons.