River runners advised to beware of heavy equipment in river at Basalt | AspenTimes.com

River runners advised to beware of heavy equipment in river at Basalt

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
A track hoe peels material off the old berm along the Roaring Fork River at the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park. Heavy equipment will be in the river next week, rebuilding the bank.
Town of Basalt/Courtesy photo |

Rafters, kayakers and other river runners are being advised to use caution downstream from the Midland Avenue Bridge over the next few weeks while an old berm is dismantled and a new riverbank created.

Rock, concrete and other materials are being peeled off the berm as part of the Basalt town government’s project to ease flooding threats and prepare the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park for construction of a park and possible development.

So far, construction equipment hasn’t worked in the river, said Larry Thompson, town engineer. The equipment has operated from the bank. As soon as next week, a large track hoe and other equipment will enter the river to refashion a riverbank, he said.

The river remains open and navigable, but river runners are being advised to use other sections, if possible. Basalt has put up banners on bridges and other locations upstream of the work warning floaters that “Construction equipment is in the river ahead.”

Basalt has a permit for the work from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. All equipment must be out of the water by Sept. 30, according to Thompson. Only a short window during August and September was allowed for the work so trout spawning wouldn’t be disrupted. Different species spawn at different times.

The old riverbank was strewn with large chunks of concrete and heavy wire mesh called gabion baskets. It was a ramshackle levee built over the years to protect the trailer park from flooding.

The trailer park residents have been relocated. A contractor for the town is constructing a park on half of the site and using fill to raise the other half for possible development. The berm that’s being dismantled was up to six feet high in places. Once it is removed, the contractor will install boulders three feet beneath the river bottom to anchor the new riverbank, Thompson said. The river will be allowed to bow into the new park at high water. A wider channel will ease the flood threat.

Rafting season has extended further into the summer because of water levels, so town officials wanted to advise people about the work going into the busy Labor Day weekend.