Shoshone blowout closes canyon path |

Shoshone blowout closes canyon path

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD CANYON – A ruptured water conduit at the Shoshone hydroelectric plant in Glenwood Canyon early Wednesday morning covered a section of the recreation path with mud and debris. The hole in the flume was said to be large enough that a grown man could fit through it.

The Colorado Department of Transportation closed the Glenwood Canyon recreation path until further notice between Grizzly Creek rest area and the Hanging Lake rest area due to about a foot of mud and debris. A section of the path is suspected to have settled, “a few inches,” said Pete Mertes, CDOT resident engineer in Glenwood Springs.

“Work will continue,” Mertes said. “They’re just trying to get it cleaned up.”

Mertes said the impacts to the rafting companies on the Colorado River is minimal now because the river is so high with runoff.

Patrick Drake, co-owner of Blue Sky Adventures in Glenwood agreed and had minimal concerns on Wednesday.

“If it continues as the water goes down, it will affect us,” Drake said. “We’ll have to see what the river does in the next couple of days.”

Additionally, CDOT closed access to the river in the Shoshone area and recreational river activity is heavily discouraged as there is significant debris in the water that could be hazardous.

“We don’t see any real serious damage on the surface,” Mertes said. “But there is a lot of water coming through the (retaining) wall next to the path. Until some cleanup can occur, we just don’t know the extent of the damage.”

Xcel Energy spokeswoman Ethnie Groves said that at approximately 5:15 Wednesday morning a penstock, a tube that funnels water into the turbines inside the building, ruptured just above the roofline of the building, flooding the structure with 7 to 10 feet of water.

The amount of damage was determined “considerable” according to Groves. Xcel Energy, which operates the Shoshone hydroelectric plant, plans to make all necessary repairs, but has no estimated time in which those repairs will occur, Groves said.

“We had all of the water pumped out by noon,” she said. “All that is left is mud, rock and sand.”

No residential areas were affected, Groves said. But she added that Grizzly Creek rest area is without power, Hanging Lake tunnels lost power but are running on backup generators, and some of the railroad signals are not working.

“It will take at least a week to know how bad it really is,” she said.

Traffic on Interstate 70 wasn’t affected by the incident, but was closed for a short time due to an auto accident involving two semi-tractor trailers, according to CDOT.

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