Basalt ready to unveil fruits of exhaustive river studies | AspenTimes.com

Basalt ready to unveil fruits of exhaustive river studies

After 16 months of exhaustive studies of the Roaring Fork River, Basalt has finished a plan on how it will handle development, flood control, recreation and the environment within its boundaries.

The Town Council will hold public hearings tonight and Wednesday, both at 6 p.m. at Town Hall, to unveil its “river stewardship master plan.”

The exhaustive study details everything from existing conditions along the riverbanks to factors that make the river susceptible to flooding.

The study says that the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers help define Basalt’s identity.

“The high water of 1995 and consequent threats to the health and safety of town residents put an end to the town’s historic indifference to the river while the town’s growing population has taken a greater interest in the environmental and recreation value of the river,” the study said.

Town residents confirmed last fall that their interest is more than just talk. They approved a property-tax increase to raise funds for open space and riverfront parks. The ballot wording also allows those funds to be used for flood control.

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The town’s new report documents numerous concerns about flooding potential and steps that should be taken to ease it. As anticipated, the report singles out the upper Basalt Bypass Bridge as a major contributor to the town’s flood woes.

The bridge was built by the Colorado Department of Transportation in 1987. The report contends that its diagonal construction tends to accumulate debris and rock rather than pass them on. That adds to the flooding threat.

The report recommends capping or sheathing the bridge supports to carry water and debris more efficiently. In addition, the main river channel should be realigned to direct water under the bridge at a more favorable angle.

The report also suggests exploring whether debris-catching devices could be build upstream to remove the flood risk at the bridge.

The best, and also most expensive solution, would be to reconstruct the bridge as a clear span. CDOT officials told town officials they don’t have the funds for that.

One of the other most significant recommendations was the relocation of the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park. The park was plagued by minor flooding in 1995 and is deemed in harm’s way.

The report said that area downstream from the old Emma bridge should be kept free of development in the floodplain. Some of the property would be suitable for redevelopment as a mixed residential and commercial project, according to the report.

The report also encouraged exploring creation of a kayak course on the river in that area.

The detailed report was written after extensive study of issues by 25 citizen volunteers who live, work or own property in Basalt and 25 volunteer technical experts in everything from conservation to engineering.

The report will be formally unveiled for the Town Council and planning commission tonight. The boards are expected to adopt the plan.

If necessary, the hearing will be continued to Wednesday night.

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