For years Denver Water has opened its Waterton Canyon property to public recreation. Over the next 17 months, however, the area will be closed to recreational use so the canyon road can be used for its main function—to serve as a vital access road to Strontia Springs Reservoir.

Denver Water will be dredging the reservoir to remove at least 625,000 cu yd of sediment that has built up following forest fires and intense rains, and the canyon road essentially will be a six-mile-long construction site during the project.

The dredging is necessary to maintain water quality and avoid operational challenges that could impact Denver Water’s service to its 1.3 million customers in the Denver metro area. At the completion of the project, Denver Water will reopen the canyon.

“On high-use days, there are more than 2,000 visitors to Waterton Canyon, ranging in age from small children to older adults,” said Neil Sperandeo, manager of recreation for Denver Water. “This large-scale project will require heavy machinery and equipment in the canyon. We considered other alternatives to the dredging project, as well as ways to keep the canyon open during construction, but in the end, we determined it is in the best interest of public safety to close the road.”

Since 1997, Denver Water has investigated 24 different alternatives to closing the canyon. Each alternative was rated and ranked based on technical feasibility, environmental impacts, permitting requirements, public safety, policy issues and costs. The top two alternatives, dredge and transport the sediment upstream and dredge an transport the sediment downstream, were reviewed by members of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners, who ultimately selected the downstream option as the most appropriate alternative.

Neither the parking lot at the canyon's entrance nor the canyon will be accessible during the closure, which will last until Dec. 31, 2011. Access to The Colorado Trail from Waterton Canyon also will be closed.

The project will cost more than $30 million, but that amount could increase if additional material is removed.

New York-based Sevenson Environmental Services Inc. is the contractor for this project.