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Act now to protect Mitchell Creek

Worst-case scenario: mud 15 feet deep along Mitchell Creek.

The U.S. Geological Survey recently issued this frightening forecast as part of a wider study of potential mudslides from the lands burned in the 2002 Coal Seam Fire.

In the case of a 100-year flood, from the kind of storm that would dump more than 1.5 inches of rain in an hour or less, residents could expect to see severe debris flows along Mitchell Creek, fanning out to a wide area below Donegan Road.



Mudslides would also come down from the steep slopes of Red Mountain, flowing down the alluvial fan covered with burnt (but regrowing) oakbrush and onto the Glenwood Meadows property now slated for commercial and residential development.

As Glenwood Springs Councilman Dave Merritt pointed out, new construction in the city – which is expected at Glenwood Meadows – must be designed for debris flows with collection basins and barrier walls. But existing structures, such as the many homes and businesses along Mitchell Creek, are not protected by such requirements.



Study author M.J. Friedel notes that the basins in place and planned for the Meadows, the Community Center and the Municipal Operations Center, designed before the fire when a worst-case scenario mudflow was strictly theoretical, could be overtopped.

Post-fire, the worst-case scenario could happen any time. A 100-year flood could come next week, next year, or in 2102.

Glenwood Springs and Garfield County officials need to take Friedel’s report very seriously.

The Meadows debris flow basins should be carefully checked to see if they can hold the expected flows.

More immediately, city and county officials should work together to plan and build a system for channeling mudflow along Mitchell Creek. Residents of that neighborhood should get every protection possible from the worst-case scenario.


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