After major spruce-up, Highline Lake to refill

The bow of a sunken boat is now above water at Highline Lake State Park.The water is low but filling the lake with the opening of the Highline Canal,

Now a mere puddle of its former self, Highline Lake is due for a complete refill this month with the possibility it will be open for boating as early as the middle of the month and at least by the end of April.

The return of boating will include the return of boating at the east ramp, which has been closed to larger craft for four years, park manager Alan Martinez said.

The lake was lowered, though not drained, to allow maintenance, including the removal of silt from the dam, a job that hadn’t been undertaken since the dam was built in the mid-1960s, said Mike Porras, spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The outlet gate had become buried in sediment and the dredging operation allowed divers to inspect and test the structure for the first time in decades.

The headgate was buried under 16 feet of sediment that had settled there since all work on the dam was completed in 1969, Martinez said.

Silt wasn’t the only thing that had piled over the years,

“There was an electric trolling motor and anchors all over the place,” Martinez said.

And trash — 40 years worth of it.

“We had a Mesa County inmate crew and we probably hauled two dumpsters of trash off the bottom of the lake,” Martinez said. “It was a great cleanup.”

The project is wrapping up now, on schedule and under budget, Porras said.

The Highline Lake cleanup garnered a little more than $1 million in funding distributed by Great Outdoors Colorado and has so far cost $870,000, Porras said.

The project was split into two elements, dredging to restore the deep channel into the lake — $425,000 — and the work on the dam — $445,000.

Highline Lake State Park has remained open through the winter and early spring and the park will host an Easter egg hunt at 1 p.m. April 20, Easter Sunday, in the group picnic area.

The Government Highline Canal feeds into Highline Lake and the Grand Valley Water Users’ Association can under certain circumstances pump some water out of, and into, the lake.

Recreation, however, is the reason the dam was built and but for projects such as the this winter’s cleanup, the level doesn’t fluctuate as do other reservoirs that store water for irrigation and other purposes, Martinez said.

“It might be the only lake in Colorado that was built for recreation,” Martinez said.

And as of Monday, water from Government Highline Canal was flowing in, lifting the level to 8 feet above the level at which it was dredged, Porras said.


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