McPhee breakwater has a plan

Redesign is now in hands of engineers

The fate of the long-stalled breakwater project is finally inching forward, and officials are cautiously optimistic it may be ready for installation soon.

A constructed breakwater at the McPhee boat ramp was supposed to be floated into position last summer, but it is still languishing near shore.

Now Montezuma County and Forest Service officials are encouraged that Blue Water Design finally came through with updated design plans for the unit’s anchor points on the bottom of the lake.

The revised design plans were submitted to Forest Service engineers for approval, said Derek Padilla, District Ranger for the San Juan National Forest.

“We learned this week that they have a return date within the next month on the plans,” he said. “If it all checks out, we will go forward (with installation).”

A $158,384 recreation grant was awarded to the county in 2010 by Colorado Parks and Wildlife to build and install the structure after the previous breakwater was destroyed by a fire in 2002. The county pitched in $50,000.

Circle Zebra fabricators, out of Mancos, constructed the breakwater tire structure and accompanying winches and cables.

It is designed to move up and down with water levels and forward and backward in relation to a fluctuating shoreline. The company is waiting to install the structure to the lake bottom once final designs are approved.

The breakwater is seen as a precursor to a potential new marina for McPhee Reservoir. Padilla said he has had a few inquiries regarding a recreation permit for building and operating a marina and concessionaire.

“There is some potential for a marina, but it would have to be smaller in scale than the previous one,” he said. “It would definitely benefit the community from an economic standpoint.”

Due to forest budget cuts, conducting the regulatory environmental analyses for a marina is not feasible at this time, Padilla said. But there is potential for a small marina proposal where the applicant pays for a qualified, third-party contractor to conduct appropriate environmental reviews. The plans would then be submitted for approval to the forest service.

Usage of the lake was significantly higher when there was a breakwater and marina, Padilla said.

In an era of limited budgets, “We need partnering opportunities to be able to support a marina project,” he said. “Montezuma County has been a great partner and we would not be to the point we are without their participation.”

A 2004 feasibility study for a McPhee Marina by the Abonmarche Group for a McPhee Marina concluded a basic marina with boat slips at McPhee would need to be publicly funded or financed and cost $600,000. A private concessionaire could the operate and maintain the facility, renting boats and slips, for a profit.

The study concludes the previous marina was too large for the boating demand at McPhee, resulting in its failure. Overwhelming overhead and maintenance costs resulted in three operators to go bankrupt.

To view the study go to