An iconic lake in the heart of Green Mountain Falls lost most of its water last weekend after an aging, manmade outlet on its eastern shores breached.
The water looked low Saturday. And by early Sunday, the levels were at about one-fourth of normal, said Mayor Jane Newberry.
A contractor was to begin repairing the outlet Tuesday and finish the job Thursday for about $5,000, Newberry said.
The lake, with an island supporting a Victorian gazebo, is a defining feature of the small Ute Pass mountain town. Residents and visitors enjoy the lake and fish its stocked trout.
Now an undulating sculpture that resembles netting hangs above the lake, a vestige of this year’s Green Box Arts Festival. The installation, about 100 by 45 feet, is made of fiber, net and other high-tech materials. The work of artist Janet Echelman is to be displayed through August.
Colorado Springs resident Carolyn Shaw said she saw the sculpture Friday, and when she returned with her husband Sunday, she was shocked by the fallen water levels.
“Oh my gosh. It’s probably down 4 feet. You can see the bottom in some places,” said Shaw.
Newberry said the lake usually is about 10 feet deep in some spots.
The metal and concrete outlet that failed is a gateway for downstream flows into Fountain Creek, the mayor said.
“It’s old, and it’s tired,” Newberry said. “It was time for it to fail. Unfortunately, it did.”
The repairs should sustain the structure for another four to six years, she said, but the outlet and the lake’s eastern edge eventually will need to be reconstructed.
Newberry said she will seek grants and other funds to pay about $100,000 for that reconstruction.
She said she wasn’t concerned that the low water levels would kill the trout, as water still flows into the lake from upstream, providing oxygen to sustain the fish.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife stocked the lake with about 1,200 rainbow trout this year. The latest plant was May 10, said Josh Nehring, a senior aquatic biologist for the agency.
Because it’s a popular fishing spot, those trout usually don’t last long, he said.
Nehring said he would visit the lake Tuesday to measure water levels and temperatures and look for signs of stress in the fish. Most trout species begin to experience stress when water temperatures reach about 70 degrees, and they typically can’t survive when temperatures surpass the mid-70s, he said.
“At this point, I think if there’s some water coming in, I think there’s a good chance the trout will survive,” he said. “It will all depend on how quickly they can get those repairs done and what the weather forecast looks like.”
Anglers can take only four fish a day from the lake, and they can’t have more than eight in their possession at any time, Nehring said.
But fishing now might be difficult if the water is far from the shoreline, he noted.