Dam anniversary: 1 year since bladder burst drained Tempe Town Lake

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TEMPE, Ariz. – One year ago, millions of gallons of water gushed into the normally dry bed of the Salt River after a dam bladder burst at Tempe Town Lake.

Shortly before 10 p.m. on July 20, 2010, residents in the area of Tempe Town Lake reported hearing a loud bang. When they looked to see what happened, they saw water pouring over the rapidly deflating dam bladder and gushing downstream. By the next morning, the lake was nothing more than a mud bog.

Tempe Town Lake was empty for about 90 days as crews made repairs and installed a new 16-foot tall rubber bladder.

3TV’s Javier Soto checked in at the lake Wednesday morning, the first anniversary of the dam burst. Construction of a unique pedestrian bridge is closer to wrapping up. It’s due to be finished next month.

Assistant City Manager for the City of Tempe Jeff Kulaga said people have been enjoying the lake since it was refilled in November.

Construction of the pedestrian bridge, which also will function to shade and cool the dam bladders, began in April. Kulaga said the bridge is about 75 percent complete. Workmen are installing hand-railing and finishing the decking.

“Underneath the deck of the bridge, there’s a sprinkler system that will be used to keep the new bladders here cool,” Kulaga explained. “Hopefully [the dam] will last a bit longer than last time.”

The bladders currently in place are temporary. They will be there for the next five years.

“After that, we’ll go with a permanent dam structure,” Kulaga said.

Research is already under way to determine what that permanent structure will be.