Tempe Town Lake drained for dam repairs

Cameron Abbott
Mesa Legend

When driving east or west bound on the Loop-202, the site of the Tempe Town Lake on the north bend is a site to behold.However, the site is going to be a lot appealing for the next month. Beginning on March 15, the specially designed water pump will have been used to empty the Tempe Town Lake to perform a renovation on the dam, while officials inspect the lakebed itself.
“As part of the construction process, the water from Town Lake is being moved out of the lake and into the Salt River Project (SRP) Canal System so that crews can remove the previous dam,” a City of Tempe statement read. “We are using a special pump to do this. It takes until about March 15 to move the water into the canal.”

Dry lake bed and construction equipment.
Tempe Town Lake was drained in mid-March to make construction of a new dam (pictured above) easier. The lake will likely be empty until April 30, 2016.

According to officials the lake will reopen on April 30, having been repaired and it’s lakebed vetted. However, for that forty-five day period there are several concerns, primarily those concerning the wildlife of Tempe Town Lake. In preparation for this, the City of Tempe lifted the limit of fish that could be caught, allowing free pull of the entire lake’s fish reserve.  Included with this, city officials did not stock the lake at the same levels in fall of 2015, all concerted efforts to lower the population of the lake to allow small pockets of fish to exist in smaller reservoirs until the time comes to reintroduce them into their natural habitat of the lake.

“Monitoring pockets of water within the lake that contain fish, since fish can survive in small space for such short amounts of time.” the official statement said. “We understand that some fish may not make it through this time. Those fish will contribute the well-being of other animals. We have reached out to the Phoenix Zoo, World Wildlife Zoo and the Herpetological Society and hope to provide fish to them.” The fish are not the only concern, however, as the lakebed will likely become the nesting ground for an assortment of insects, something the City of Tempe says they have an expert to help curtail this. The dam itself is a massive structure, with eight 17ft tall gates, each being 100ft wide, built to hold the lake, and then using hydraulic lifts to lower the gate as needed should rain fall in the statewide monsoon season in too vast a quantity.

The cost of the structure is a cost of $47 million taxpayer dollars. However, there stands the possibility that the dam project will not meet its deadline. A short delay till the end of the following month could occur.  “If we were to get a whole lot of rain that impacts the very end stages of the installation of the new dam and the removal of the current dam, that would be one scenario that could make the refilling later than late April/early May,” communications and media relations manager, Nikki Ripley explained.

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These are archived stories from Mesa Legend editions before Fall 2018. See article for corresponding author.

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