@USBR to Hold Public Meeting on Estes Valley Resource Management Plan for Lake Estes, Marys Lake and East Portal

Aerial view of Lake Estes and Olympus Dam looking west. Photo credit Northern Water.

Here’s the release from Reclamation (James Bishop):

The Bureau of Reclamation, in cooperation with Estes Valley Recreation and Park District (EVRPD), is seeking public input on a Resource Management Plan (RMP) for Lake Estes, Marys Lake and East Portal lands.

The agencies will host an open house where the public can learn and ask questions about the resource management planning process, the lands affected by the plan, and provide comments. The open house will be held on Wednesday, October 25, 2017, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Estes Park High School Commons, 1600 Manford Avenue, Estes Park, Colo. Public comments will be welcomed in writing at the open house and throughout the 30-day public comment period.

The 30-day public comment period will begin on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 and will end at close-of-business on Friday, November 17, 2017. Comments must be provided in writing and can be submitted by e-mail, fax, or regular mail. E-mail comments can be sent to EstesRMP@usbr.gov, and faxed comments can be sent to the attention of Ms. Justina Thorsen at (970) 663-3212. Regular mail comments should be sent to the attention of Ms. Thorsen at: Bureau of Reclamation, 11056 W. County Road 18E, Loveland, Colo. 80537.

Reclamation is preparing the Estes Valley RMP. The agency will also prepare an Environmental Assessment in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. Reclamation owns and operates the Colorado-Big Thompson project, which includes Lake Estes, Marys Lake, East Portal, and the surrounding federal lands. Through a management agreement with Reclamation, EVRPD is responsible for managing recreation at Lake Estes, Marys Lake, and East Portal. The RMP will guide future recreation development as well as the management of natural and cultural resources on federal lands.

Media inquiries or general questions about Reclamation should be directed to James Bishop at 970-962-4326 or jbishop@usbr.gov. Specific questions about the resource management planning process should be directed to Justina Thorsen at 970-962-4207 or EstesRMP@usbr.gov.

Update: Big Thompson restoration project

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From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

This stretch of the Big Thompson River, from the Jasper Lake bridge to just before the Cherry Cider Store, was scoured and severely changed during the 2013 floods. It was left too wide and entrenched, with vegetation ripped away from the banks.

The new face of the river has a narrower channel with more areas along the banks for waters to disperse in the event of another flood.

It has large boulders specifically placed to control the flow of the water and to create pools for fish habitat.

There are large trees that extend from under the banks into the river, stabilizing the bank, preventing erosion and creating habitat.

And trees, forbes and shrubs were strategically planted, again to stabilize the banks, prevent erosion and create shade and habitat.

“We’ve really made it look like a river again,” said Shayna Jones, watershed coordinator with the Big Thompson Watershed Coalition.

The goal was to mix several different restoration techniques — the planting, the rocks, the tree trunks — to improve the river while keeping it natural, which from the look of the river is mission accomplished.

“It’s a really good mix of types of restoration,” added Jones.

Even the planting is mixed for diversity and meticulously planned out. The project team chose all native vegetation and placed different shrubs, trees, forbes and grasses in different zones along the banks. The willows, live stands transplanted from the river corridor nearby, are close to and in some spots in the water, while pine trees are further away up the shore.

The trees and shrubs are planted in clumps to mirror nature, not in neat rows as a gardener would do.

Much of the vegetation was transplanted from the natural surroundings, while other plants were specifically grown by the Colorado State Forest Service for river restoration.

This project is among five already completed by the Big Thompson Watershed Coalition and its partners, which have more planned this year in the Big Thompson as do other entities like the city of Loveland and Colorado Department of Transportation.

The recently completed work, called the Jasper Lake project, spans a half mile of the river on both the north and south sides of the highway and crosses private, Larimer County and U.S. Forest Service land.

It cost $800,000 with the money coming from a mixture of federal, state and private sources, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Department of Local Affairs, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Rocky Mountain Flycasters and the Trout and Salmon Foundation.

Though the river project abuts Narrows Park, that piece of public land has not yet been restored. Owned by Larimer County, that park will serve as the site of a temporary bridge crossing the river while the county replaces the Jasper Lake Bridge this fall, so restoration is planned by the county after that bridge project, according to officials involved with the restoration project.

The Big Thompson Watershed Coalition worked with contractors and several partners, including private landowners, on this project. Walsh said one of the greatest parts was to meet the people, to listen about the river’s past and to explain the new, healthier river that was being created.

Big Thompson Flood remembrance

Looking west into the narrows after the Big Thompson Flood July 31, 1976

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Michelle Vendegna):

For more than 20 years, Anderson has organized the event that commemorates the 1976 flood that started with heavy rain on July 31, 1976. It caused a massive surge of water to race down the Big Thompson Canyon with little warning, resulting in the deaths of 144 people.

Community members have gathered yearly at the memorial outside the volunteer firehouse to remember those victims. Five candles are lit for those who were never found: Rochelle Rogers, Teresa Graham, George McCarty, Vernon Oler and Evelyn Kindred.

Monday night, Pastor Paul Logue from Estes Park Baptist church officiated while Jerry Shaffer provided music and Daryle Klassen offered a tribute.

Bob Graham shared his memories of losing his wife Beverly and two young daughters. Teresa and Lisa. He also lost his mother, Clara Graham.

Graham recounted his experience both during and after the flood.

“It would have been unbearable if not for good friends at the Loveland Fire Department,” he said.

“The loss of one’s children is the greatest loss a parent can endure,” he added.

Linda Marriner of LaPorte comes each year to remember her father, Doc Ealy Lee, who died in the flood.

“He loved that river,” she said. Her father loved to fish and went every chance he got, although he would never keep his catch. Linda said he hated the taste.

Linda was joined by her son Luke, his wife Amy and their two sons, Colby, 3, and Caden, 5.

“It’s really about being with my mom,” Luke Marriner said. He has been to the ceremony every year.

He said his mom always talked about his grandfather while he was growing up.

“It was probably more me asking than her telling,” he said, and they have continued to talk about him with the two young boys as the anniversary rolls around.

“It’s important to keep this alive,” Luke said.

Each year, scholarships are given to living relatives of those who were lost. The scholarships come from donations, various fundraisers and sales of books “The Big Thompson Flood” and “Big Thompson Flood Disasters.”

The four recipients for 2017 are Drew Lanig, of Missouri, who is the great-grandson Joseph Appelbaum; Haley Haskell, of Iowa, who is the great-granddaughter of William and Emma Haskell and who lost four other family members; Shannon Peistrup, of Littleton, who is the great-granddaughter of Norma Peistrup; and Trenton Drake Allison, of Kansas, who is the great-grandson of Gene and Faith Saunders.

For more information on the yearly gathering or to donate, http://1976bigthompsonflood.org.

Big Thompson Flood, July 31, 1976

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jason Pohl):

All told, Colorado’s deadliest natural disaster claimed 144 lives, injured scores of others, and permanently altered memories and landscapes alike. It prompted new talks about living in flood country and became the “where were you” moment for a generation, ranking alongside Dec. 7, 1941, and Sept. 11, 2001.

Drake: Big Thompson Memorial Service Monday, July 31, 2017, 7:00 PM

Looking west into the narrows after the Big Thompson Flood July 31, 1976

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

The annual commemoration of the 1976 Big Thompson Flood is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at the site of a flood memorial one mile east of Drake Road on U.S. Highway 34.

The flash flood of July 31, 1976, in the Big Thompson Canyon took 144 lives, making it the worst natural disaster in Colorado’s history.

The memorial service will include speakers, music, announcement of academic scholarships to relatives of flood victims, and light refreshments. Participants should bring a lawn chair for their comfort.

Information: http://www.1976bigthompsonflood.org

#Runoff news: The Big Thompson has peaked, Yampa flows too high for tubing

From The Estes Park Trail Gazette (David Persons):

It may not look like it as the Big Thompson River and Fall River continue to race through the middle of town and a very noticeable snowpack still looms in the high country, but experts believe the peak runoff for this current season has just occurred and that we should soon see the water levels dropping.

“Right now what we can say is that it (the seasonal runoff) is comparable with previous years and we are pretty certain that it has already peaked, probably two days ago,” said James Bishop on Wednesday afternoon. Bishop is the Public Involvement Specialist for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in Colorado…

The flow of the Big Thompson River at Moraine Park peaked at 755 cubic feet per second (cfs) at 2:15 a.m. Sunday morning. Since then, the flow has dropped significantly to 613 cfs on Monday to 267 cfs by late Wednesday afternoon…

Checking U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources charts finds that the Big Thompson River flow just below Lake Estes peaked at 804 cfs at 3:15 a.m. Tuesday while the Big Thompson River flow at Loveland peaked at 492 cfs at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

From Steamboat Today (Matt Stensland):

It is hot and the river looks tempting, but it is still too early to safely tube the Yampa River…

Not only is the water currently very turbulent, but it is also very cold. Steamboat Flyfisher was reporting a water temperature Wednesday of 54 degrees.

Many in N. #Colorado welcome the @OmahaUSACE approval for Chimney Hollow Reservoir

From The Greeley Tribune (Sharon Dunn):

Just last week, the Army Corps of Engineers approved the Chimney Hollow reservoir project, which will hold 90,000 acre feet of water and feed several Front Range communities, including Greeley.

Such infrastructure is vital for future growth, regardless, [Brian] Werner said.

The fight is not over. The conservancy district will continue to fight for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a proposed water storage and distribution project that will supply 15 northern Front Range communities with 40,000 acre feet of water. That’s been held up at the Army Corps of Engineers for more than a decade. A decision is expected next year.

“Chimney Hollow and NISP will put a major dent into what we’ll need down the road,” Werner said. “More people are coming whether we build this or not. Our future looks a lot better having some of these storage buckets with more people than a lot more people and no storage buckets. We’ll start drying up more farms. We’ve got to have water.”

In addition to water storage, the city of Greeley, has an intense focus on proper drainage to combat the decades-old problem of flooding in Greeley.

Joel Hemesath, public works director, said the city has been working for the past two years with some bond money to improve drainage in and around Greeley. He said the city is gearing up for downtown projects, as well, that will route drainage to a detention pond by the Poudre River via bigger pipes.

Since 2012, the city has spent a little more than $17 million on stormwater projects.

The city also works hard to improve trails, dedicating just shy of $900,000 to them since 2012.

Hemesath said the city would like to extend Sheep Draw Trail through some more western subdivisions, and extend the Poudre Trail farther east.