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A dry future for Frisco marina?

Julie Sutor
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk The summer of 2002 was an expensively dry year for the Frisco marina. The latest water-use models predict Dillon Reservoir will see many more such years in the future.
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FRISCO – The water in Dillon Reservoir belongs to Denver first and Summit County second. That edict may become extremely apparent in the near future.

A report released last month by the Upper Colorado River Basin Study predicts that future Denver Metro-area water use will leave the marina high and dry most summers.



“Looking at the model and what we’ve been told, we can certainly expect more years with low levels similar to 2002 than years when the reservoir is going to be full,” said Frisco Public Works director Tim Mack.

This isn’t about drought, the study says. It’s about Denver-area consumption.



The Upper Colorado River Basin Study – also known as UPCO – examined the consequences for Frisco Marina under four different scenarios of future Front Range water-use, modeled by Denver Water. Based on the models, the marina can expect to see between 19 and 24 dry years in a given 26-year period.

In those years, the marina could resemble what it looked like in the summer of 2002, an exceptionally dry year. In 2002, boaters had to travel up to a mile from the historical boundary of the reservoir to reach the water’s edge.

“In 2002, we spent thousands and thousands of dollars to accommodate customers,” said Bernie Baltich, the marina’s concessionaire and owner of Osprey Adventures. “We shuttled people down three quarters of a mile to a mile out. We bought vans, we were adapting our equipment, we were pushing parts of our dock system out.”



Frisco Town Manager Theresa Casey said the town’s options are limited if the model’s predictions are accurate.

“It’s bad for us, it’s bad for tourism, it’s bad for the town,” she said. “It doesn’t take much to lose our depth, because we’re so shallow at this end. We have to decide how productive it is to chase the water. The concessionaire will have something to say about that as well. How badly do they want to chase the water?”

While the predictions are dire, there’s no need to shut the marina’s doors, said Taylor Hawes of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, a participant in the study.

“It’s not happening tomorrow,” Hawes said. “Denver is still in the process of planning, and there are still things that can be done. The point of the UPCO process was to find out what the impacts will be and to mitigate them.

“The Frisco Marina was a big, red flag,” Hawes said. “We just had a meeting yesterday, and we’re looking for solutions. Now we know what the problem is, and we have to solve it.”

Hawes emphasized that no model is perfect. The four scenarios used in the study hypothesize metro-area water needs and resources decades into the future.

Furthermore, the model assumes the same number of dry, average and wet years that occurred in the period from 1946 to 1991, and does not account for any changes global warming might trigger. “It’s not going to perfectly predict the future. Don’t get hung up on the numbers,” Hawes said.

Baltich, for one, isn’t ready to cash in his chips.

“Osprey Adventures knows how to run the marina under those conditions,” he said. “In 2002, as people went out on the water, they forgot about the drought.

“This is nothing new,” he added. “I’ve been working on the reservoir for 15 years, and this discussion has been ongoing. No matter what, it’s a man-made and -operated facility, and we have to work within those constraints. Our business plan is based on that.”

In the meantime, the town isn’t slowing down on its continued investment in the Lakefront Park and Marina, a shoreline recreation area that would cater to landlubbers and sailors alike.

“Each year, we spend a great deal of money down there,” Casey said. “We’re going to finish the park. It’s one of our major tourist attractions for the summer period, and we need to do what we can so those people will still come.”


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