Spring runoff to be high and fast | PostIndependent.com

Spring runoff to be high and fast

Amanda Holt MillerPost Independent Staff

The water will be higher and faster this spring than it has been in the past, but there isn’t much concern over flooding, officials say.The snowpack in the upper Colorado River basin is 11 percent higher than average. That’s something that hasn’t happened since 1997, said Brian Avery, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.”There will be high and fast water,” Avery said. “That always brings out the rafters and the kayakers. There might be some minor flooding in low-lying areas.”Some tributaries and smaller rivers and streams like the Roaring Fork and Frying Pan could swell, Avery said. But major flooding is unlikely.”Extreme warm temperatures early on and wet, heavy rains could change that,” Avery said. “That’s what usually causes flooding.”This area saw some flooding in 1997, when the snowpack was just a little higher than it is this year. Otherwise, the most recent floods were in 1983 and 1984, Avery said.Flooding hasn’t been a concern at all over the last eight years because the state has experienced a drought.”This will help,” Avery said. “But one good year doesn’t pull you out of a drought.”At any rate, flooding doesn’t seem to be a significant concern.”Ten percent over average isn’t that much,” said Dennis Davidson, who’s with the Colorado Natural Resources Conservancy District in Glenwood Springs. “It’s an average. It’s not that unusual to be 10 percent above or below it.”Rifle Gap and Harvey Gap reservoirs in the western part of the county are over capacity and Rifle Gap is spilling water into Rifle Creek. That hasn’t happened since 2000. But John Jewell, the Silt Water Conservancy manager, said flood are extremely unlikely there as well. Most of that water is diverted for irrigation.Davidson said Government Creek, which feeds into Rifle Creek, can be prone to floods after heavy thunderstorms, but is not typically impacted by heavy spring runoffs.Davidson said the water was higher last year than it has been in many years, but that was normal and it’s likely to be a little higher this year than it was last year.”We’re going to have high water,” Davidson said. “But unless the weather is extreme, it’s pretty unlikely we’ll have damaging high water.”High water gets rafting and kayaking enthusiasts in the area excited for a good season on the rapids.Whitewater Rafting in West Glenwood is gearing up to start trips down the river. They’ll start with a skeleton crew the last week of April and will begin a full schedule of tours the first week in May.Peak runoff is usually at the end of May or the beginning of June.”We’re expecting a normal runoff this year,” Suzzie Larson, a Whitewater owner, said. She said she expects the water to be good, but nothing spectacular.That’s what Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario is counting on, too. He said there are some problem area during normal peak run off. Those area include parts of the bike path along Interstate 70, the area around Veltus Park and the low spot near the Farnham-Holt Funeral home at the corner of Eighth Street and Midland Avenue.Nancy Shanks, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation, said crews are working diligently to make sure culverts are clear and they are keeping and eye on problem spots.”We’re not expecting anything major,” Vallario said. “That’s not to say we’re not prepared if we get a lot of water. But this is what we used to expect.”

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