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Town to lower its lake

Matt Zalaznick

Strange, but not true: Nottingham Lake’s is going to be being drained this week because they’re filming a movie ‹-a horror flic about a disastrous bout of global warming that turns the Rocky Mountains instantly into a desert. The deal was worked out by wily Avon Town Council members who hobnobbed with Hollywood stars at last month’s celebrity-studded American Ski Classic in Vail.

The drama is about a hard-boiled small town engineer and the pitfalls and intrigue of municipal marsh management.

Truth is, however, the man-made lake really is going to be lowered six feet ‹half its depth. It’s for more mundane reasons, however, than making movies.



“We have to lower the lake about 6 feet in order to get to a valve, where we’ll be excavating to repair the valve,” Town Engineer Norm Wood says.

Nottingham Lake is 12 feet deep at its deepest and the water level has to be lowered ‹-beginning this week ‹ so the town, ironically, can fix the valve that lowers the water level. The work should take a week and cost about $49,000, Wood says.



“We can open the valve to let the water out, but we’re not sure if we can close it,” Wood says. “If we can’t close the valve we have other ways to plug the pipe.”

The valve, at the end of pipe that’s part of a dam embedded in the bank, is on the west side of the lake near the softball field. But don’t look for geysers or waterspouts or any other sudden parting of the waters.

“It won’t be anything dramatic to watch, but there will be some mud flats around the edges that won’t be pretty to look at,” Wood says.



Apparently, however, locals who frequent the lake, like Jim Kearney of West Vail, aren’t all that concerned about the temporary bogs.

“It’ll be mud season and people won’t care too much,” says Kearney, who often walks his dog around the lake after a work out at the Avon Recreation Center.

What about the fish losing 6 feet of their home? Don’t worry too much, officials say, because the Division of Wildlife, which stocks the lake with Rainbow Trout, has its eye on the repair project, too, Wood says.

“We’re doing a number of things to protect the fish,” Wood says. “We’re going to lower the water slowly so it doesn’t stir up silt and we’ll put a screen over the valve so the fish don’t go out the pipe when the water is lowered.”

Fish-friendly?

There’s a slim but highly unlikely chance the entire lake will have to be trained. Either way, the town is anticipating a smidgeon of controversy when the water level drops and the excavation work begins April 15.

“Whenever you lower the lake, people get concerned about fish dying ‹ but they don’t have to be concerned,” says Avon Town Manager Bill Efting. “We’re not fish killers.”

Warning to Avon: Just the combining by a public official of the words “fish” and “kill” ‹-let alone actually killing fish ‹-can infuriate the more extreme activists in the animal rights movement.

In 1996, for example, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, demanded the small town of Fishkill, N.Y., change its name.

PETA activists felt the name implied violence against fish. But “kill” is actually a Dutch word for “stream” ‹ which is just the sort of watery place a fish should be.

PETA, oddly, left the nearby Catskill Mountains alone. And in Fishkill, which is a few miles east of the Hudson River, the suggested name change was roundly rejected by residents.

Hmmm … could PETA deconstruct and twist the name “Nottingham” into some demonic, animal-threatening slogan?

It’s doubtful.

“I hope we don’t lose one poor little fish,” Mayor Judy Yoder said.

Kearney said he’s pro-fish and wildlife, but it would be a bit impractical to round up Nottingham Lake’s trout and store them in an aquarium while the pipe is being repaired.

“I consider myself myself an environmentalist, but sometimes I think we go a little overboard,” Kearney said.

Matt Zalaznick covers public safety, Eagle County Courts and Avon/ Beaver Creek. He can be reached at (970) 949-0555 ext. 606 or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.


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