‘Prepared for the future:’ Glenwood Springs drinking water intake system at No Name Creek reinforced to mitigate damage from Grizzly Creek Fire debris flow

Glenwood Springs Public Works Director Matt Langhorst points out the burn scar directly above the city’s intake structure at No Name Creek. Shannon Marvel / Post Independent

Glenwood Springs recently completed a watershed project that will protect the city’s main water source for years to come.

The project beefed up sediment and debris flow protections along the water intake at No Name Creek.

The catalyst for the project was last summer’s Grizzly Creek Fire, which came alarmingly close to the intake system.

The city used $222,975 in grant funding from the Emergency Watershed Protection Program and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, with the caveat that it be completed in less than a year. The city completed the project in six months. The city also matched $53,961 of those funds. In total, the city completed $3.2 million in upgrades at the water treatment plant and No Name Tunnel.

“The challenging part was hiring an engineering company that had basically enough staff to throw everyone at it,” said Matt Langhorst, Glenwood Springs public works director.

“At one point I think Carollo Engineers had 17 engineers on it to get the plans done in an appropriate amount of time so we could go ahead and bid it. That was probably the biggest challenge was getting plans together — which is something that typically takes a year — in two to three months.”

Langhorst said the engineering firm has experience with wildfire mitigation projects before, which helped speed up the process.

The city also bought project materials in preparation to get the ball rolling.

“Materials have been very challenging,” Langhorst said. “Years ago, I built this giant storage facility out at our wastewater plant. Everything that got delivered went into the 7,000 square feet of storage facility that we have to keep it out of the snow and keep it in good condition. Then we just hauled it in as we needed it.”

The intake’s location, paired with the location of the Grizzly Creek burn scar, increased the likelihood of debris flow and rockfall damaging the intake system at No Name, which provides drinking water to Glenwood Springs’ 9,930 residents.

“This is like the worst spot for us because rainfall can bring mud down really quickly. Whereas if it were at the top of the watershed there would be a lot of things to deflect that mud and rock prior to making it to us,” Langhorst said.

“This is the steepest portion of No Name Creek, and that’s what burned.”

The project armored the intake’s walls with steel plates, among other reinforcement methods. Langhorst said crews also cleaned up the river down below the intake system, which is also now armored on both sides.

Bryana Starbuck, Glenwood Springs public information officer, said the city has prepared for the worst case scenario at the No Name intake site.

“And luckily it didn’t come to that, but now we’re prepared for the future,” Starbuck said.

Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or

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