Glenwood Springs’ waterways on path to recovery following record debris flows |

Glenwood Springs’ waterways on path to recovery following record debris flows

Aquatic species in the Colorado River weathered the summer’s debris flow events better than Colorado Parks and Wildlife anticipated, a CPW spokesperson said.

While creatures within No Name and Grizzly creeks were all but wiped out in some sections of the waterways, CPW Aquatic Wildlife Biologist Kendall Bakich said several species were already recuperating.

“We know that things have survived (in No Name Creek), and they are going to persist,” Bakich said. “Fish are going to move after events like these debris flows. They are going to go find better conditions.”

During a webinar Wednesday, Bakich and consulting engineer Leanna Miller briefed attendees about impacted waterways following the debris-flow events that occurred in late June and early August.

“We are likely to see elevated sediment loading in the No Name and Grizzly Creek sources after rain events for the next three to five years,” Miller said. “The existing treatment plant is capable of handling these challenges after the improvements project last year.”

During the height of the debris flows, Miller said the city’s No Name and Grizzly creeks intake experienced record turbidity, a measure of the sediment in the water, spiking at about 4,000 nephelometric turbidity units. Prior to the historic rain events that caused the debris flows, the intake had not experienced turbidity higher than 50 NTU, Miller said.

In anticipation of debris flows from the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar and as a result of this summer’s historic rain events, Glenwood Springs invested about $8.5 million in water infrastructure upgrades, Mayor Jonathan Godes said.

Following the infrastructure upgrades, the city can treat about 8.56 million gallons a day and store up to 6 million gallons.

“On the hottest summer days, the city uses up to 4 million gallons a day,” Godes said.

Miller said the upgrades could extend the life of the city’s water treatment facilities, some of which were built in the 1970s.

“A new facility, if paid for today, could cost the city up to $30 (million) to $40 million,” she said. “Unfortunately, water infrastructure upgrades are extremely expensive.”

Although debris flows were at their worst in areas scarred by the Grizzly Creek Fire, Miller said the fire itself did not significantly impact the watersheds of No Name and Grizzly creeks, Miller said.

“The fire impacted about 2.9% of the Grizzly Creek watershed,” she said, “and about 9.2% of the No Name watershed.”

Although the debris flows killed some aquatic wildlife, either through blunt trauma or fine silt drawn into their gills, Bakich said adding downed trees, boulders and large sediment to the waterways could eventually improve fish habitat.

“We will see the river start to recover in about five to eight years,” she said. “As our landscape is stabilizing, debris flows will become less frequent and less severe.”

Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at

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