Feds authorize new flood mitigation work in Basalt problem spot | AspenTimes.com

Feds authorize new flood mitigation work in Basalt problem spot

Keith McDougal and Geri Wright stand on a barrier at the intersection of Cedar Drive and Pinon in Basalt on Sunday. Water from the Lake Christine Fire burn scar overwhelmed a culvert at that site and swamped the neighborhood.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

A federal agency has agreed to authorize work to try avoiding a repeat of the flash flooding that swamped homes in Basalt with tons of mud Aug. 4.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service agreed Tuesday to a new flood mitigation project that affected homes on Cedar Drive and Sopris Drive, according to Basalt Town Manager Ryan Mahoney.

A representative of the NRCS met with Mahoney and the town’s engineering consultant Tuesday to examine a drainage that turned out to be an unexpected problem in the flash flood. A torrent of water and mud flowed down Basalt Mountain in an unnamed drainage and overwhelmed a culvert at Cedar Drive and Pinon. The water cascaded down the street in sheets, gouged ruts on adjacent property and dumped tons of sediment into yards. Water swamped the interior of three houses.

The federal government awarded about $1.2 million for emergency flood mitigation projects earlier in the year. The NRCS had to approve any projects implemented.

“This drainage was not initially identified in our mitigation work, which is why we have not had work completed in that area,” Mahoney wrote in a recent report to the Town Council.

Mahoney said the NRCS agreed Tuesday to add the drainage to the project area. The agency will perform a survey of the land around the drainage, so that will speed the work, he said. The town’s engineering consultant, SGM, will work on design of flood mitigation steps. Mahoney was unable to say Tuesday night what specific steps will be required.

The town’s construction contractor has been alerted that the Cedar Drive project has the highest priority, according to Mahoney. Ideally, he said, work will commence by the end of the week.

“We’re going to do everything we can to get that done quickly,” he said.

A different mitigation project a short distance away, above the Basberg Townhomes, proved successful in limiting the amount of water and mud coming down a different drainage. A large catch basin was constructed and land re-contoured above the developed part of town. The difference, Mahoney noted, is there was easy access to a relatively flat area where the catch basin was constructed. The drainage above Cedar Drive is narrow, steep and with no road access.

Nevertheless, Mahoney was optimistic that steps can be taken to ease — though not eliminate — the flood risk.

“I think we had really good concepts that we talked about today,” he said.