City gradually refilling Idlewild Lake

New concrete dam nearly complete as city staff begins process of bringing water level back up.

The new Idlewild Lake dam is nearly complete and the city is beginning to refill the reservoir.

The new Idlewild Lake dam is nearly complete and the city is beginning to refill the reservoir.

The construction of the dam at Idlewild Lake is all but finished as contractors are wrapping up a few minor items and beginning to refill the reservoir.

The dam is starting the commissioning process and spillway components are operational, but the park remains open to the public except for the area around the dam structure.

The construction phase lasted a little longer than expected due to a few unexpected challenges, according to Mike Matejka, the city’s project manager.

“Things went fairly well,” Matejka said. “We had a bit of a tight construction window to try and get the entire project done ideally before winter hit and with a few extra things that were discovered through the construction process, which isn’t to be unexpected with a project of this nature, it did push us a little delayed into the winter, which caused a little bit of extra work to ensure all the concrete work was done properly.”

Local contractors began the work in August by constructing a bypass and dredging the lake, in order to remove the earthen dam and rebuild a concrete structure and spillway.

Once crews got into the project, some surprises needed to be solved, added Matejka.

“The biggest unknown that we did run into was the presence of some unsuitable soils that was going to be underneath the new concrete spillway structure,” Matejka said, “so we had to do some additional excavation and placement of some more structurally sound material before we installed and constructed the new spillway structure.”

Beginning last week, city staff have started the process of gradually refilling the reservoir.

“We’re just monitoring how everything is working and how long it’s going to take to get it to fill up,” said Matejka, “and we will be keeping the public informed moving forward on any ongoing safety issues or any work that’s going to happen in the area.

“It’s going to take a few weeks to get it completed. It is dependent on the the weather and any rainfall that we get, just to make sure we have enough water passing through the bypass structure and into the creek below.”

In terms of public access, the park is completely open, including the tobogganing hill, except for the area around the dam structure itself.

From a budgetary perspective, it’s too early to tell if the project was under or over budget. The dam rehabilitation project was funded by a $2.8 million federal gas tax grant that includes money for the dam construction and the eventual redevelopment of the entire park, which will feature more public amenities such as picnic areas, playgrounds and a disc golf course.