ASHTON, Idaho (AP) -- After three years of repair and reconstruction, the Ashton Reservoir in eastern Idaho is on pace to reach its normal water levels by early next week.
The reservoir has been drawn down significantly in recent years to allow for crews to focus on upgrades to the dam's earthen base and other components.
The Post Register reports (http://bit.ly/ZLbfLF) the dam has slowly been refilling and Rocky Mountain Power began generating electricity earlier this month. Now, utility and government officials predict the reservoir will likely be reopened to the public for recreational activities on Jan. 4.
The dam, which began operating in 1914, has had a history of sinkholes, raising concerns about its overall structural integrity. The utility has been planning since 2004 the preparations and repairs that went into the project for the last several years.
The list of repairs and upgrades during the three-year project included removal and replacement of the earthen portion of the dam. Earlier this year, crews replaced and repaired concrete supporting structures on the downstream side of the power house.
During this summer and fall, work focused on excavation and reconstruction of the earthen and rock-fill portion of the dam and replacing its concrete crest.
Initially, the project had its share of skeptics, specifically angler groups concerned the work would flush dirt and sediment down the Henry's Fork of the Snake River, a world famous trout stream. But those fears, along with concerns about reservoir drawdowns shortchanging farmers reliant on irrigation water, never materialized.
"We appreciate nearby property owners and farmers' patience and understanding during the course of this project," project manager Troy Stout said.
Crews have had to refill the reservoir 26 feet -- at a rate of nearly one foot per day -- to reach normal levels.
Copyright 2012 The AP.