Spring flooding possible along Roaring Fork
ASPEN ” The Roaring Fork Valley is one of only a handful of places in Colorado that could experience flooding during runoff season, according to the National Weather Service.
A hydrologic outlook posted April 16 by the weather bureau said spring runoff flood potential isn’t high for most of western Colorado, with a few exceptions.
“The headwaters of the Roaring Fork River have received up to 125 percent of normal snow water equivalent, and while flooding is not likely in Glenwood Springs, upstream locations along the Roaring Fork River need to be monitored,” the bulletin said.
Bryon Lawrence, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office, said no major problems are anticipated.
“If there is any flooding it would just be low-lying areas,” he said.
The Colorado Department of Transportation plans to be prepared. It has a flood mitigation and bridge protection project planned in Basalt next month.
The agency cleared brush in February upstream from what is known as the Upper Bypass Bridge, at the east entrance to Basalt. It will dredge rock and sand upstream of the bridge and under the bridge in early May, according to spokeswoman Nancy Shanks.
“What they’re doing is trying to mitigate any flooding potential,” she said.
Two hydrology studies performed for the town of Basalt identified the bridge as a problem area. The bridge was built at an odd angle to the river, so rock and sand piles up and makes flooding behavior hard to predict, the studies concluded.
CDOT removed about 100 tons of rock and sand from under the bridge last spring. It didn’t work upstream of the bridge because it wasn’t able to secure a permit in time from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This year, a permit wasn’t needed because CDOT will remain entirely within its right-of-way and stay out of the river, Shanks said. It is CDOT’s understanding that the Army Corps agreed that no permit was necessary, she said. CDOT workers have staked out the area where the dredging is proposed.
Lawrence said that while major flooding isn’t anticipated, water flows could be high if temperatures get hot for an extended amount of time this spring or if rainstorms mix with warm temperatures.
“We want the snow melting out slowly,” Lawrence said.
Potential disaster was averted last spring with a slow, steady melting of a snowpack that was significantly above average. Pockets of warm days were interrupted by cold spells. Officials were prepared for the worst. Law enforcement officials were monitoring water levels in rivers at night. Some homeowners in places like the trailer parks in the heart of Basalt and subdivisions along the Roaring Fork River placed sandbags in yards.
The Roaring Fork River reached its highest level of the spring this week as the temperature soared. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation boosted the amount of water released from the dam at Ruedi Reservoir starting April 10.
“We are looking at a slightly above-average snowpack this year. As a result, beginning [April 10], we will start moving some water out of Ruedi Reservoir to make room for melting snow,” the reclamation bureau announced.
The Fryingpan River is flowing at about 153 cubic feet per second. The Roaring Fork River at Emma was flowing at 560 cfs Thursday afternoon. The mean level for that date over the past 11 years was 452 cfs.
Lawrence said the river typically peaks between June 3 and 18. Last year’s peak at Glenwood Springs was 7,070 on June 20.
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