I find underwater infrastructure deeply unnerving. I hated swimming in reservoirs as a kid, knowing all kinds of weird metal and concrete was waiting to grab me. I will gladly jump off of a train trestle, but I’ll get spooked swimming beneath it. That one scene in “The War,” the one where the kids have to swim across the inside of a water tower, is the only reason I remember the film “The War.”
So, I was naturally delighted to see that Denver Water recently dispatched an elite team of underwater construction divers to make repairs to Strontia Springs Dam some 200 feet beneath the surface of the water. Fannn-tastic.
Look at them just casually jumping into the undying darkness. Why, you and I both ask? Oh, just to ensure the dam can safely keep the South Platte River plugged up in Waterton Canyon.
The divers went to the depths in a $4 million effort to repair an emergency drainage system at the dam, which sits southwest of Chatfield State Park and Littleton. An underwater gate to a 50-foot tunnel had been jammed since 2015, according to Denver Water, “leaving no way to let water out in an emergency.”
The divers had to drain the tunnel to make the fix, which required lowering a 43,000-pound bulkhead onto the underwater side of the dam. They wore deep-sea diving suits with warm water pumps — so, they were marginally cozy, I hope.
Their only light, Denver Water reported, came “from a small headlamp on their diving helmets,” which I guess spared them from having to look at the giant wall of concrete they were floating alongside.
While they were down there, they fixed the lifting mechanism and repaired the steel lining of the tunnel through the dam, which opened in 1983.