Crews install concrete barriers to block expected mudslides
Concrete barriers are now going up in Mitchell Creek and West Glenwood in an effort to stem potential floods in the aftermath of the Coal Seam Fire.County and federal agencies are at work installing jersey barriers, concrete blocks two feet by two feet by six feet, to direct flood waters and mud flows from the steep burned slopes above Mitchell Creek away from homes and businesses.The next storm that drops a mere one-tenth of an inch of rain on Mitchell Creek will cause flooding and mud flows.The barriers should be in place by Wednesday, said Garfield County Commissioner John Martin.A total of 29 unburned homes and buildings on Mitchell Creek, including buildings at the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Glenwood Springs Fish Hatchery, are “at extremely high risk” from debris flows, according to the Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation team report presented to the county commissioners Monday.The BAER team completed its field work on Saturday.The soils of three watersheds burned by the Coal Seam Fire, Mitchell Creek, South Canyon and Red Mountain, “exhibit high burn severity and there is complete loss of vegetation on the steep slopes,” the report said.Due to the threat from a rainstorm “of high intensity … normally received during summer monsoon-type thunderstorms, our assessment indicates that mitigating treatments should be constructed immediately,” the report said.The barriers started arriving Monday. The Colorado Department of Transportation has donated 5,000 linear feet of the barriers, but the county must pay transportation costs, Martin said. The barriers weight 4,000 pounds and are linked together by steel rods.Most will be installed on private land, said district conservationist Dennis Davidson of the Natural Resource Conservation Service. He was at work Monday seeking permission for the barriers from landowners along Mitchell Creek.Barriers will also be installed behind the two car dealerships in West Glenwood, Two Rivers Chevrolet and Glenwood Springs Ford, Davidson said.They will generally be strung along the creek banks, behind some residences, and along Donegan Road to Storm King Drive.The idea, Martin said, is to direct water or mud flow to an open field behind Glenwood Springs Ford and into a catch basin south of the intersection of Highway 6&24 and Mitchell Creek Road.”There’s no 100 percent guarantee that no one will be damaged,” Martin said. “We can’t say that. But we’ll try to do our best for the largest number of people.”The Division of Wildlife has also begun to place about 80 concrete blocks around the fish hatchery, Davidson said. The hatchery harbors a genetically pure strain of Colorado River cutthroat trout of special concern.”The only other stock in existence in the world is located in Durango, at a smaller facility,” the BAER report said.In addition to the jersey barriers, the BAER team has also recommended placing straw wattles on slopes to slow down soil erosion on denuded areas, and removal of burned debris, including trees, from the stream channel. According to the BAER report, the cost of both short and long term rehabilitation and stabilization of the Coal Seam Fire will be approximately $5.7 million. Cost of suppressing the fire ran to $7 million.
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