#GlenwoodCanyon project manager amazed at size of debris flows, sees #ClimateChange role — The #GrandJunction Daily Sentinel #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Looking up at the source of the debris flow in Glenwood Canyon August 2021. Photo credit: CDOT

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

The man who oversaw the construction of Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon has found himself amazed at the amount of debris coming down there during rainstorms this summer, and thinks climate change is the culprit for problems in the canyon of a size and scope never anticipated when the road was designed and built.

Glenwood Springs resident Ralph Trapani is a civil engineer and former Colorado Department of Transportation employee who was CDOT’s manager on the highway construction for 12 years, from the $490 million project’s groundbreaking in 1980 to its ribbon-cutting in 1992. Last year, his workplace of more than a decade was struck by the 32,631-acre Grizzly Creek Fire, closing I-70 in the canyon for two weeks, and this summer, rainstorms on burn scars have caused multiple closures of the highway.

It has been closed since July 29 as CDOT crews continue to clear out major debris flows, assess the damage and look to make repairs. Debris flows on July 29 stranded more than 100 motorists in the canyon overnight.

Trapani said he’s surprised and amazed by how much debris has come down onto the roadway…

The Grizzly Creek burn scar above Glenwood Canyon and the Colorado River. Photo credit: Ayla Besemer via Water for Colorado

Then again, a fire like the Grizzly Creek blaze wasn’t on the minds of Trapani and others involved with the canyon project planning and construction decades ago.

“There was absolutely no history of this kind of fire in Glenwood Canyon. We did extensive studies of the ground around the canyon for debris flows and things. There was no evidence of any sort of burn or ancient fire to the extent of what we have up there now. It was never anticipated,” he said.

But he said western Colorado is now “in a climate change bubble” that never could have been anticipated back in the 1960s-80s, when the road was planned and built.

“To me that’s the bottom-line issue here, is the extreme climate change bubble we’re in in western Colorado, and that to me is the cause of all this,” he said.

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