Corp to assess redirected Fryingpan |

Corp to assess redirected Fryingpan

John ColsonAspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

BASALT The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is due to assess the recent flood on the Fryingpan River and decide whether human intervention is necessary or if things should be left to nature.The slide of rocks and mud that came roaring down Seven Castles Creek on Monday has shifted the course of the river southward, said Eagle County engineer Eva Wilson, and one area observer has termed it “the worst event of its kind” to hit the area.”Basically, Mother Nature redirected the river,” Wilson said Tuesday, adding that it is not up to the county to decide what to do about it.”That’s pretty much beyond our purview,” she explained. “All surface water is under the corps’ jurisdiction. They will send an engineer out to look at it.”Engineers from Wilson’s department visited the flood site Monday to determine what, if anything, the county should do to protect lives and property, she said. But they found nothing other than the fact that an old flatbed railroad car, which had served as a bridge across the creek, had been shoved off its supports.”There was no bridge, so there really wasn’t anything for us to look at,” she said.The flood happened at around 4 a.m. Monday, after a torrential downpour came in over the Seven Castles formation of cliffs and gullies, which loom to the north of the homes that dot the valley below.The floodwaters funneled through a natural amphitheater and down the Seven Castles Creek drainage, with boulders tumbling along the creek bed from the force of the flow.At the confluence of the creek and the Fryingpan River, the flow of mud and rocks piled up in the riverbed and forced the river against the southern bank.The flood sent Eagle County road crews scurrying to the scene to clean up the mud and rocks covering the road anywhere from knee-deep to waist-high, accordng to observers. The Basalt Fire Department responded around 5 a.m. to search for injured or stranded motorists, and Basalt sent police officers to check downriver for possible flooding, according to a statement from the department.According to area residents, one casualty of the flood is the old stage road that winds along the base of the Seven Castles formation and ultimately reaches nearly to Basalt. The road, which runs through a mix of public and private lands, was washed out at a point equivalent to mile marker 5 along Frying Pan Road, residents reported.Bill Toney, who lives in the neighborhood, said Tuesday of the Fryingpan River, “It’s starting to clear up a little bit, but it’s still red.”As for the creek, he said, it is “back to normal … running just a little trickle.”Wilson said the corps and federal wildlife officials likely will compare notes on the flood and decide what should be done. Attempts to contact the Corps were not successful.Wildlife biologist Mark Lacy, with the U.S. Forest Service, said Tuesday that he was planning to visit the scene with representatives of the Roaring Fork Conservancy, a nonprofit organization in Basalt that monitors the area’s river basins, to assess the potential harm to wildlife.Rick Lofaro, executive director for the Roaring Fork Conservancy, said he had talked with the Corps about the possibility of dredging, and that “it didn’t seem like the corps was all that interested in doing that,” possibly because of a lack of funding. He said the Corps might be persuaded if the town of Basalt makes a requests, and offers funding.Lofaro called the flood “the worst event of its kind … at the Seven Castles neighborhood, that anyone can remember.”John Colson’s e-mail address is