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Local experiences flood during drought

Greg Masse

There was no sign of a drought on David Mooney’s West Glenwood property Monday after an irrigation line was breached by a backhoe, causing a small flood and debris flow.

The line, which brings water uphill to an irrigation pond at the Glenwood Springs Golf Course, was ruptured around 1 p.m. Monday, sending water, mud and rocks rushing back down the steep hill and damaging an area Mooney called “our Mooney family little sacred spot.” It also caused some flooding on Donegan Road near its intersection with Vista Drive.

The secluded spot, located just downhill from Mooney’s house at 25 Vista Drive, has a small sweat lodge, a log bench, and some other log seats. Also, just behind the sweat lodge, Mooney built a decorative pond that’s surrounded by plants.

The flood filled Mooney’s sweat lodge and pond with mud and debris. Also, a boulder the size of an engine block hurtled down the hill, smashing the log bench.

“If somebody had been sitting on it they’d be dead,” Mooney said.

Monday’s flood was the third such incident to happen in that area. In the first two incidents, the line was broken by Rocky Mountain Infrastructure workers while they were working on the utilities for a 13-home development called Western Pines, Mooney said.

Mooney said he was awarded $1,000 in damages after winning a lawsuit against Rocky Mountain Infrastructure for the first flood, which happened about a year ago. The second flood, which happened about three months ago, didn’t affect Mooney’s property because it flowed down another side of the hill.

“I thought that might make them be more careful,” Mooney said of the lawsuit.

Monday’s flood was caused by the same company, but they were working on a different project, RMI owner Tom Stevens said. The company was contracted to bury above-ground utility lines when the break happened.

“We were doing work for the city,” Stevens said. “The work wasn’t for the development.”

Almost immediately after the break occurred, one of the company’s workers jumped into the golf course’s irrigation pond to stanch the flow.

“There’s no shut-off valve,” Stevens said. “Our guy jumped into the pond and took the inlet out of the water.”

Stevens explained that in most utility projects, the company doing the job is provided with a “utility locate,” or a map showing exactly where each utility lies. In this job, however, Stevens said the golf course provided his company with the approximate locations of underground utilities.

“With this one, the golf course gave us our best guess,” he said, adding that a standard utility locate could not be done because standard utility locates are performed with a metal detector but this pipe is made of plastic.

Once a representative of the Glenwood Springs building department arrived, he shut down the project until the site can be assessed for compliance.

“They’re officially shut down,” field building inspector Patrick Murphy said. “We do have a record of a lot of complaints against this company.”

Reno Pretti, who lives just downhill of the flooding and across Donegan Road, expressed some concern that the same thing could happen to his property.

“That damn project has been nothing but a headache,” he said as Mooney talked to Murphy and a police officer.

“I was lucky it was on this side rather than the other side. That same thing can happen to my property,” he said.


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