Local, federal officials work to fix runoff damages | PostIndependent.com

Local, federal officials work to fix runoff damages

John Colson
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The National Resource Conservation Service and the Bookcliff Conservation District are seeking $400,000 in federal funding to repair damage from last spring’s flooding at five sites in Garfield County.

On Monday, the Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) agreed to send a letter of support for the funding request, with a pledge to match the federal funding with $101,000 in county dollars.

The repairs are needed “to safeguard lives and property from an imminent hazard of flooding,” and should be done this fall, according to a letter from Kasey Taylor, a conservationist with the NRCS.

Karla Ware, the NRCS district conservationist in the Glenwood Springs field office, said the federal funding might not materialize in time for repairs to get under way this fall. The county government’s letter of support will be crucial in getting the funding request moving as quickly as possible.

Four of the sites are up Main Elk Creek north of New Castle, including hundreds of feet of riverbank in the area of property owned by Ralph Hubbell, a local rancher.

Structures and bridges in the area were wiped out or damaged in the flooding last spring, and some are still in danger of further damage if the 2012 runoff season is anything like the one of 2011.

Rancher Charles Ryden, president of the Bookcliff Conservation District board and another owner of flood-damaged land along Main Elk Creek, said a farm bridge he built a few years ago was nearly lost last spring.

“I’ve got to do something before next spring,” he said, or the bridge will not survive.

The fifth site is along the Colorado River, where raging waters took out a narrow causeway owned by Yvonne Chambers and wiped out a pond that had been there for decades.

Next spring, said Commissioner Mike Samson, Chambers “could lose a whole lot more property” unless something is done to keep the river from gouging out the northern bank.

“The only way that I can see if you’re going to change that is to change the course of the river,” Samson said, cautioning that high runoff could end up taking Chambers’ house.

Mike Kishimoto, a civil engineer for the NRCS, said it is possible that large boulders placed in the river could divert the current out to the main channel and away from the riverbank and Chambers’ property.

“It’s a difficult project, because it’s the Colorado River,” he said. In the spring, Colorado River floodwaters run at thousands of cubic feet per second, with enough force to roll even large boulders downriver.

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky noted, “I understand doing this to protect a county road,” as is the case along Elk Creek.

But he questioned the wisdom of using county funds to help protect private property unless there is a public safety issue involved.

Samson noted that, in the cast of Chambers’ property, her downstream neighbor is a gravel pit and beyond that is the city of Rifle’s intake for its municipal water system. Samson said the intake also could be threatened by a massive flood.


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