Basalt officials learned this week thata construction project in the Roaring Fork River channel didn’t suffer any costly damage Dec. 13 when an ice dam broke loose and unleashed a surge of water and ice blocks.
The ice floe swamped a trench cut across two-thirds of the river channel and protected by a temporary, portable dam. Huge ice chunks ended up in the trench, where a concrete foundation had been poured and rebar set in preparation for placement of a major new sewer line.
Basalt is undertaking a multimillion-dollar project that includes easing the flood risk by removing cobblestones and lining the bed with special rock that will stay anchored. Riverbanks will be stabilized, a riverside park will be built, and land adjacent to the Taqueria el Nopal restaurant will be razed so it can be developed.
The town’s contractor, American Civil Contractors, was working on the riverbank Dec. 13 when the ice broke loose, according to Basalt Town Engineer Larry Thompson.
“The good news is that no one was in the trench when it happened, and no one was injured,” he said.
Some massive pumps, used to keep water out of the trench, were battered by ice blocks but apparently didn’t suffer major damage, Thompson said. The contractor used a track hoe to remove the ice chunks and the pumps to draw most of the water out of the trench over the past few days. Workers finally were able to visually assess the damage to the trench Wednesday and determine it wasn’t substantial, Thompson said.
“From the contractor’s standpoint, it certainly cost them time,” Thompson said. The lost time can likely be made up. The project is scheduled for completion Nov. 30.
Basalt officials are considering posting a guard upstream on days when workers are at risk to provide a warning when ice dams break.