Tempe doesn't have the money to replace the aged rubber dams that bookend Town Lake, and even if the city was flush with cash it doesn't know where to buy them.
Although the company which made and installed the dams 10 years ago no longer is in that business, it is willing to provide Tempe a stopgap, essentially for free, while the city looks for solutions.
Under a contract going before the City Council on Thursday night, rubber conglomerate Bridgestone will provide four replacement bladders and lease them to the city for a dollar a month over the next five years.
If the contract is approved, assistant city manager Jeff Kulaga said, the first bladder would be installed late this year, and the others would be put in place in periods of two to three months.
Once the last dam is inflated, that would start the clock on the lease. During that time, Tempe would look for replacements.
"We need a window to figure out a long-term solution," Kulaga told the Tribune on Wednesday.
Bridgestone spokesman Dan MacDonald: "Our company has a strong core value of giving back to the communities we call home."
It was in 2006 when Tempe officials learned the dams at the lake's western end needed replacing. To blame was Arizona's harsh climate, especially the baking afternoon sun.
Nearly a decade before, Bridgestone told the city its products should last 25 to 30 years - although the guarantee expires after 10. The lake was filled in 1999, so the warranty is up soon.
Kulaga said the dams currently are in "OK" condition, "but they've been weathered for 10 years."
Finding replacements could cost anywhere from $22 million (an estimate which may not be anchored to reality, city officials admit) to nearly four times as much. Much of the expense comes from the fact these dams are specialized, as they must handle the ebbs and flows of the Salt River.
The dams allowed the creation of Tempe Town Lake, the centerpiece of a 2-mile-long hub of recreation and private development where there had been an empty, ugly scar of a riverbed.
When Bridgestone's replacement dams arrive, they can be installed without draining the lake, Kulaga said. A cofferdam will be constructed, creating a dry area where the work will take place.