West Salt Creek slide lake leaks, officials report — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Grand Mesa mudslide before and after via The Denver Post
Grand Mesa mudslide before and after via The Denver Post

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

A new watercourse springing from the West Salt Creek landslide has Mesa County officials saying they’re paying close attention to the change.

Tim Hayashi and Frank Kochevar Jr., respectively the senior engineer and survey supervisor for Mesa County, found the new stream as they visited the slide on Sunday, Hayashi said.

The discovery gave new urgency to the landslide study, Hayashi said.

“We’re at a point where Frank and I have gone from checking (on the slide) from once or twice a day to just about every hour,” Hayashi said. “And that’s ‘round the clock.”

The new stream rises about 75 feet above the base of the slump block — the large mass of mud, rock and debris still clinging to the side of Grand Mesa, Hayashi said.

Its appearance marks a “significant change” in the landslide and prompted heightened scrutiny of the slide according to an emergency action plan drawn up by the county for dealing with the slide. The plan accounts for three levels of response, of which the additional awareness is the first level.

There is no immediate threat to residents or to the town of Collbran, six miles to the northwest, Hayashi said.

Experts expected the stream to appear at some point, “it was just a matter of when,” Hayashi said.

The source of the stream is the lake, or sag pond, that has collected in the V-shaped area between the mesa and the slump block, Hayashi said.

“There is no other reasonable source of water” at this time, he said.

Access to the slide area remains restricted at the top by the U.S. Forest Service. No one is permitted within 300 yards of the edge of the slide because of its instability.

The rest of the slide sits on private property.

Cameras, monitors and other devices are in place to alert officials of any movement, including a monitor about 100 feet above the new stream.

Residents of the area are to be notified should conditions become hazardous, according to the county’s emergency plan.

Officials with the U.S. Geological Survey, Colorado Geological Survey, and Department of Parks and Wildlife are monitoring the slide, as are the county and Forest Service.

From The Denver Post (Anthony Cotton):

A Level One, under the Emergency Action Plan, means something has changed that requires a heightened level of awareness, the county said on its Facebook page. It does not mean citizens near the area face an extra safety risk.

The highest alert level is Level Three.

The appearance of a stream of water on the West Salt Creek landslide area above Collbran prompted the decision.

“We expected to see water-related changes in the landslide during spring runoff,” said Tim Hayashi, Senior Engineer for Mesa County. “But one of the looming questions has been, ‘What would the pond do?'”[…]

Mesa County’s emergency plan calls for immediate notification of the public when conditions become hazardous to citizens. Collbran residents have previously been briefed on the possibility of water spilling over the sag pond or finding a route down the debris area.

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