Telluride: Cornet Creek flood mitigation will help but not prevent flooding

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From The Telluride Watch (Thomas Wirth):

People need to realize, [Karen Guglielmone] said, that in the event of a major event, “pretty much the entire town is in the Cornet Creek floodplain.”

Guglielmone, who is the town’s project manager, went on to update council on the work completed to mitigate flood damage potential since the 2007 “event.” The long list included repair and replacement of culverts and bridges, channel and bank work and repair within the creek, streetscape improvements, ongoing maintenance to keep the creek and culverts free of excessive sediment and debris, and continuing work with San Miguel County to establish emergency response protocols.

Future priorities would look much the same, Guglielmone said, including the replacement of the Cornet Creek Pedestrian Bridge and engineering studies. The suggested studies would focus on a structural analysis of the Cornet Aspen Street berm, a debris cachement system and the feasibility of an early warning system. Of the three, council was most critical of the EWS.

Guglielmone explained that, while EWS systems are improving, there is still the chance of them falling prey to the “cry wolf” syndrome, where false alerts lead to people ignoring alerts altogether. Council as a group seemed to agree that the five minutes of warning that such a system might provide was probably not worth the effort and expense…

Regardless of maintenance and preventative measures, flooding is by its very nature destructive and unpredictable. Town Attorney Kevin Geiger pointed out that no government entity could warranty private property owners against the effects of a flood. Whatever work is done, he said, Cornet Creek would “not be able to handle the bigger events that have and will overwhelm the creek.”

“Risk never goes away,” Guglielmone agreed. The reduction of those risks is a priority of the Public Works Department, she explained. Individual flood insurance, proper zoning, structures such as culverts, bridges and berms, and contingency and response plans are all tools used to reduce the effects of flooding.

More San Miguel River watershed coverage here.

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