#ColoradoSprings: Detention ponds helping to improve safety — The Colorado Springs Gazette

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Patrick Nelson):

Water left behind by severe weather in northeast Colorado Springs has some neighbors are concerned about rising water in ponding basins near their homes.

Taxpayers agreed to pay more money for improvements to the stormwater system in the Colorado Springs area and while some folks in Wolf Ranch were concerned about a detention pond filling up, the experts say it’s evidence the stormwater system is doing its job.

On the surface it’s calm, but the stormwater system below this detention pond in Wolf Ranch is moving thousands of gallons of water down stream. Seeing this normally dry basin full of water had some neighbors on edge. Even some of the wildlife came in for a closer look, but stormwater expert Richard Mulledy says the system is performing at a high level.

“You’ve got to give it an “A”,” said the Colorado Springs Stormwater Enterprise Manager. “I mean, it really took a hard hit and we didn’t see anything major.”

Just down the road near Research Parkway and Black Forest Road, work is going on to build another detention pond to help mitigate flooding during severe weather.

“Our stormwater infrastructure is enormous. we’re 195 square miles we’re actually the largest landwise city in the state,” said Mulledy.

It’s become a requirement for new neighborhoods because if there isn’t somewhere for the water to go it could cause major problems.

“If this facility wasn’t here you would’ve seen that giant flash flood come down erode the banks, flow over the top of roads, that’s when you see people’s backyards caving in. things like that,” said Mulledy.

The water in this Wolf Ranch detention pond will completely drain into Cottonwood Creek within 72-hours. Across the city, ponds like this are used to control the water flow making areas near waterways safer downstream all the way to Pueblo.

Colorado Springs with the Front Range in background. Photo credit Wikipedia.

Rain wreaks havoc on Lake Christine burn scar — The Aspen Daily News #stormwater

From The Aspen Daily News (Madeleine Osberger):

A storm that unleashed its power over the Lake Christine burn area beginning late Sunday afternoon triggered multiple debris flows and water on Frying Pan Road that temporarily trapped 20 different vehicles, but resulted in no known injuries, according to Scott Thompson, chief of Roaring Fork Fire Rescue…

A Pitkin Alert evacuation notice went out at 5:31 p.m. aimed at those who lived in the area of Pinon Road and Cedar Drive imploring them to “please take all necessary precautions,”which included seeking higher ground. “Do not enter flowing water or debris,” was among the initial warnings.

Frying Pan Road was closed intermittently Sunday from Riverside Drive to about 2 1/2 miles up the road, according to deputy chief Cleve Williams. The intersection of Cedar Drive and Two Rivers Road was reopened by 10 p.m. on Sunday…

According to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, an inch of rain fell over the first hour, beginning at 5 p.m. There were reports of heavy rain after the first 30 minutes and flooding started on the south end of the Lake Christine burn scar. By 8:30 p.m. the rain had subsided and, according to Chief Thompson, was expected to let up before midnight.

From The Aspen Times (Rick Carroll) via The Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Click through to view the photo gallery):

One of the trigger points for the floods was at Pinon Drive and Cedar Drive, an area above Basalt from where the initial 911 calls were placed at approximately 5:30 p.m. Sunday…

All of the roads, including Frying Pan Road — where 10 vehicles had been stuck Sunday and later removed — had re-opened to traffic by Monday. Pinon and Cedar drives, as well as Two Rivers Road, also had been closed. Two Rivers Road opened late Sunday; Pinon and Cedar opened Monday morning.

Crews also on Monday determined the floods had not damaged the integrity of roads and bridges, said Birch Barron, Eagle County emergency manager.

Structural damage to the residences in the affected area appeared to be limited, according to Barron.

“We believe there were less than 10 private residences with debris in or around structures, and for the majority of those structures, the debris was in nonresidential spaces — garages and basement and property surrounding that,” he said.

The county had not received any reports of residences being uninhabitable, Barron noted.

The evacuation zone impacted about 30 residences; however, a number of individuals couldn’t evacuate because of dangerous road conditions, Barron said.

Sunday’s response was a collaborative effort among Eagle and Pitkin counties, the town of Basalt, area law enforcement and emergency response teams, as well as state and federal agencies, Barron said.

The flow out of Ruedi Reservoir was increased Monday by 50 cubic feet per second to help clear up the Fryingpan River, which had taken on a muddy hue from the flood’s debris and sediment.

“This should be a big help toward protecting fish and river health,” said Kris Widlak, Eagle County’s director of communications.

Screenshot from the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. Photo credit: Anna Stonehouse via The Aspen times

July 31, 1976 Big Thompson Flood — @USGS

Big Thompson Flood, Colorado. Cabin lodged on a private bridge just below Drake, looking upstream. Photo by W. R. Hansen, August 13, 1976. Photo via the USGS.
Big Thompson Flood, Colorado. Cabin lodged on a private bridge just below Drake, looking upstream. Photo by W. R. Hansen, August 13, 1976. Photo via the USGS.

Click here to go to views the poster from the United States Geological Survey:

In the early evening of July 31, 1976 a large stationary thunderstorm released as much as 7.5 inches of rainfall in about an hour (about 12 inches in a few hours) in the upper reaches of the Big Thompson River drainage. This large amount of rainfall in such a short period of time produced a flash flood that caught residents and tourists by surprise. The immense volume of water that churned down the narrow Big Thompson Canyon scoured the river channel and destroyed everything in its path, including 418 homes, 52 businesses, numerous bridges, paved and unpaved roads, power and telephone lines, and many other structures. The tragedy claimed the lives of 144 people. Scores of other people narrowly escaped with their lives.

The Big Thompson flood ranks among the deadliest of Colorado’s recorded floods. It is one of several destructive floods in the United States that has shown the necessity of conducting research to determine the causes and effects of floods. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) conducts research and operates a Nationwide streamgage network to help understand and predict the magnitude and likelihood of large streamflow events such as the Big Thompson Flood. Such research and streamgage information are part of an ongoing USGS effort to reduce flood hazards and to increase public awareness.

After the September 2013 floods Allen Best wrote about being part of the disaster response in The Denver Post. It’s a good read. Here’s one passage:

I was at the Big Thompson disaster. I was living in Fort Collins then and was among scores of young men (sorry, women, those were different times) with strong backs who could be summoned in case of forest fires. My only fire was at an old sawmill site in the foothills. The joke was that one of us had set the fire because we were so desperate for minimum-wage work.

Then came July 31. It was hot that night in Fort Collins. It hadn’t rained a drop.

I was living above Gene’s Tavern, just two blocks from the Larimer County Courthouse. When the call came, I was at the sheriff’s office almost immediately. It was 9 p.m.

Being among the first at the command center at the Dam Store west of Loveland, near the mouth of Big Thompson Canyon, I was assigned to a pickup dispatched to look for people in the water near the turnoff to Masonville. Already, the river was out of its banks. From the darkness emerged a figure, dripping and confused. “I went fishing at Horsetooth (Reservoir) and was driving home and then there was all this water,” he sputtered. He was befuddled. So were we.

Our leader decided we’d best get out of there. From what I saw the next morning, that was an excellent decision. Water later covered the road there, too. I spent the night at the Dam Store as the water rose. Helicopters were dispatched, but there was little that could be done. Our lights revealed picnic baskets, beach balls and propane bottles bobbing in the dark, roiling water that raced past us, but never any hands summoning help.

In the morning, we found those hands. The bodies were stripped of clothing and covered with mud. The first I saw was of a woman who we guessed was 18, not much younger than I was then. This thin margin between life and death was startling in my young eyes.

Eventually, 144 people were declared victims of the flooding that night (although one turned up alive in 2008 in Oklahoma).

Estes Park got some rain, but not all that much. The larger story was partway down the canyon, in the Glen Haven and Glen Comfort areas, where the thunderstorm hovered. In just a few hours, it dropped 10 to 14 inches of water.

Downstream in the canyon, just above the Narrows, some people were unaware that anything was amiss until they went outside their houses and saw the water rising in their yards. It hadn’t even rained there. One cabin I saw a few days later was stripped of doors and windows but stood on its foundations, a mound of mud 5 or 6 feet high in the interior. I seem to recall a dog barking as we approached, protecting that small part of the familiar in a world gone mad.

At the old hydroelectric plant where my family had once enjoyed Sunday picnics, the brick building had vanished. Only the turbines and concrete foundation remained. In a nearby tree, amid the branches maybe 10 or 15 feet off the ground, hung a lifeless body.

The river that night carried 32,000 cubic feet per second of water at the mouth of the canyon, near where I was stationed. It happened almost instantaneously — and then it was gone. It was a flash flood.

Fountain Creek lawsuit update: Court grants more time for settlement talks

The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Robert Boczkiewicz):

Officials of Pueblo County and of the Lower Arkansas Valley are making significant progress to resolve a lawsuit against Colorado Springs for years of defiling Fountain Creek.

“The parties have made significant progress toward settlement,” states a July 23 report obtained by The Pueblo Chieftain.

The report was submitted to a judge in Denver of the U.S. District Court for Colorado, where the lawsuit is pending.

The Chieftain reported in December that both sides of the dispute had begun meeting to discuss a potential resolution without further litigation.

The new report and the one in December were signed by attorneys for the litigants: the county commissioners, the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Public Health and Environment on one side, and the city of Colorado Springs on the other side…

After a trial last year, the judge overseeing the case decided in November that the Colorado Springs violated its permit that regulates discharges into the creek from the city’s storm water sewer system.

The next step would have been for another trial to determine what the city must do to remedy the violations.

The commissioners, the water conservancy district, plus the federal and state environmental agencies stated in December they would ask a judge to order Colorado Springs to improve its storm water system, impose monetary penalties “and other appropriate remedies” if both sides could not agree on how to resolve the dispute.

In last week’s report, all sides stated they “have been meeting regularly and intensively to reach settlement.”

They asked the judge to put the case on hold in order to give them at least until Nov. 22 “to focus on settlement.”

Senior Judge John L. Kane granted the request.

Efforts to clean up Fountain Creek and leverage it for recreation are building in #ColoradoSprings

From The Colorado Sun (Jesse Paul):

A will, but not a way — quite yet

While the interest in cleaning up Fountain Creek through downtown Colorado Springs is building, the coalitions and money needed to do it are lagging.

Trout Unlimited, the nationwide organization known for advocating for water quality improvements to bolster recreation, has not been involved. The local chapter’s president, in an interview with The Colorado Sun, cast doubt on the possibility of a sustainable trout population in the stretch, but he said he would be interested in learning more.

There are cleanups of the area around the stream, but any visitor can clearly see that they aren’t solving the problem.

“We’re absolutely talking about it,” City Council President Richard Skorman said. “But, no, there’s not, like, $10 million in a fund today that’s involved in it.”

State Sen. Owen Hill, the Republican lawmaker Peak ventured into the creek with, said he is working to build support among nongovernmental organizations to complete a cleanup. Hill declined to identify the groups because he’s still in the early stages of talks to get them aboard.

“It is a little sketchy, but we aren’t going to change that without building the awareness,” Hill said, noting that he has returned many times to fish the creek. “When you look at our grandparents’ generation, they used to picnic down there and swim in the creek. And now we’re afraid to go down there without waterproof clothing on.”

Colorado Springs’ City Council recently passed ordinances increasing fines for littering and prohibiting camping within 100 feet of a public stream to help improve water quality in Fountain Creek. The latter, which adds to the city’s existing camping ban, has drawn pushback from advocates who say transients are being unfairly blamed for a bigger problem.

Skorman says homeless displacement is a concern of his, but that the city is working toward solutions. He said he envisions that one day the confluence of Monument and Fountain creeks downtown could be like Confluence Park in central Denver, where people swim, kayak and fish.

“We’re probably a good 10 years behind other communities,” Skorman said. “I dream about this at night. It’s my big passion. And I think we’re going to do it here. I think we’re going to do something special.”

As for Peak, he’s going to continue working to raise awareness of Fountain Creek’s potential.

“This isn’t something that the current city council or government did, but it is something that they have to deal with,” Peak said. “What to do? That’s the million dollar question.”

Report: Remediation Scenarios for Attenuating Peak Flows and Reducing Sediment Transport in Fountain Creek, Colorado, 2013

#Runoff news: Lake City prepares and waits, so far so good

The historic Hidden Treasure Dam above Lake City on Henson Creek will be removed to avoid a surge of debris which could impact the community of Lake City. Efforts will begin immediately. Hidden Treasures Dam owners, the Hurd Family, made the hard decision to remove the dam after it was determined it would likely not survive the high flow spring runoff. The decision was made following analysis conducted by an advisory group which included the Hurd Family as well as representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Office of Emergency Management, Hinsdale County, Town of Lake City, Colorado Geological Survey and Colorado Division of Water Resources – Dam Safety. All available options to save this historic structure were considered. The Hidden Treasure Dam dates back to the 1890s when both the Hidden Treasure and Hard Tack mines were in operation. Photo credit: Hinsdale County

From The Denver Post (Elise Schmelzer):

Lake City, the only town in remote Hinsdale County, is one of many rural Colorado communities working to prepare for potential flooding as the winter’s epic snowpack begins to melt. Mountain towns across the state are preparing sandbags and warning visitors about high water…

Although numerous mountain towns have prepared for high water, Lake City’s predicament was particularly dire and threatened lives before the emergency crews arrived, state officials said.

More than 60 avalanches, some more than a half-mile wide, pushed mountainsides of trees, boulders and snow to the floors of the two river valleys surrounding the town, which sits at the confluence of Henson Creek and the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River…

Authorities feared a wall of water could build if the logs jammed or blocked one of the two historic dams. If the debris jam or dam were to break, the surge of water sent downstream could send feet of water into some of the low-lying areas of town within 15 minutes.

At a town meeting Tuesday, officials estimated there was a 10 percent chance that the worst-case scenario could happen if weather conditions aligned perfectly and predicted that high water could begin as early as this weekend. Federal, state and local officials have worked in the city for a few weeks to mitigate the chance of such a surge, including partially deconstructing one of the dams…

Lake City residents knew the avalanches around their town of about 400 people this past winter were unprecedented. The avalanches in February and March caused voluntary evacuations and flattened the Hinsdale County sheriff’s house outside town.

But it wasn’t until crews in April started exploring the two mountain roads along the river valleys that the size of the avalanches became apparent. Piles of centuries-old trees, snow and boulders covered sections of roads up to a half-mile long…

Mitigation efforts have been broad. Personnel from the group of agencies built a berm along one of the rivers in town. They partially destroyed one of the historic dams so water could flow better. They also placed additional sensors along the rivers so the flows could be monitored in real time. They helped organize the filling and deployment of more than 18,000 sandbags around town to protect important buildings. Crews surrounded the most vulnerable homes near the confluence with 3,000-pound mega sandbags…

Engineers recommended that the town demolish the 129-year-old Hidden Treasure Dam because they worried that avalanche debris could block the dam and cause it to fail, sending a rush of water toward town. Contractors used a remote-controlled jackhammer suspended on a sling to chip away at the top of the dam and small explosives to blast away the bottom.

But engineers later determined the new gaps at the top and the bottom were big enough to avoid a jam…

Signs along the Rio Grande on Wednesday prohibited anybody — or any boat — from entering the raging water. Along Colorado 149, the river overtook tree trunks and washed out boat ramps, but left houses untouched. Campgrounds and some roads in the area remained closed.

Mineral and Rio Grande counties, as well as sections of Conejos and Saguache counties, remained on flood watch Thursday. Officials in Chaffee and Summit counties, as well as the towns of Silverthorne, Buena Vista, Avon and Ouray, have opened sandbag stations…

In Creede, about 50 miles southeast of Lake City, waters have taken over the floodplain but haven’t threatened any structures, said Kathleen Murphy, director of the town’s chamber of commerce. The city worked last week to widen a concrete flume that directs water through town. A road north of town washed out after avalanche debris built up, releasing a surge of water. Some lower-elevation hiking trails were flooded as well.

From The Summit Daily News (Allen Best):

In Colorado, where snow still blankets the San Juan Mountains, the Durango Telegraph has proclaimed El Niño as the winner of this year’s Hardrock 100. The race was scheduled for mid-July.

Organizers canceled the 100-mile foot race among the peaks of the San Juans around Silverton owing to “unprecedented avalanche debris, unstable snow bridges and high water” that compromised 40 miles of the race course.

It was the third time in 27 years that the race had been canceled, the first being in 1995 because of too much snow and then in 2002 because of forest fires.

At the California Weather Blog, meteorologist Daniel Swain suggests a big view of weather extremes across North America: floods in Nebraska, tornadoes in Oklahoma, a massive forest fire in Canada and record heat in the Arctic. They’re all connected, he points out.

Emerging evidence suggests that such weather extremes may be occurring with greater frequency and intensity as the Arctic continues to warm faster than the rest of the planet.

“Interestingly, though, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the impacts we experienced in 2019 will be exactly the same the next time this pattern repeats,” Swain wrote on his blog. Every iteration of the “wavy jet stream” produces new patterns of warmth vs. coolness and very wet vs. very dry.

From KOAA.com (Tyler Dumas):

The Arkansas River keeps rising in Fremont and Pueblo Counties.

10 feet is considered flood stage in Canon City and the river reached that level at 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning. Minor flooding is expected in flatter areas, like along Raynolds Ave.

In Avondale, flood stage is considered 7 feet, which was reached around 11 p.m. Friday night…

Parks and Wildlife has closed off the river below the dam at Lake Pueblo State Park to swimmers and all non-whitewater boats, including inner tubes and kayaks.

Law enforcement in Pueblo has also closed off the river east of Pueblo Blvd. to the Otero County line because of fast-moving water.

From InkStain (John Fleck):

The Bureau of Reclamation’s monthly storage model runs, based on the latest Colorado River Basin runoff forecasts, show Lake Powell ending the water year (Sept. 30) at 13.8 million acre feet. That’s an increase of more than a million feet over the May estimate, and 2.8 million acre feet above the Sept. 30, 2018 number:

From email from Reclamation (James Bishop):

Releases from Green Mountain to the Blue River will increase according to the following schedule starting at midnight [June 15, 2019] (cusp between 15 and 16 June):

12:00 a.m. Adjust release from 1100 cfs to 1200 cfs
3:00 a,m. Adjust release from 1200 cfs to 1300 cfs
6:00 a.m. Adjust release from 1300 cfs to 1400 cfs

Morgan Conservation District annual meeting recap

The Platte River is formed in western Nebraska east of the city of North Platte, Nebraska by the confluence of the North Platte and the South Platte Rivers, which both arise from snowmelt in the eastern Rockies east of the Continental Divide. Map via Wikimedia.

From The Fort Morgan Times (John La Porte):

Competition for the limited water resources used to be a primary, if not the primary, issue for agriculture in northeastern Colorado.

While quantity is still a major issue, water quality is increasingly important, particularly with deterioration of that quality.

That was apparent at an annual locally led meeting hosted Wednesday in Brush by the Morgan Conservation District…

The Morgan Conservation District works with the Fort Morgan NRCS field office and is a member of the Lower South Platte watershed of Morgan, Centennial, Sedgwick and Haxtun Conservation Districts.

C.W. Scott, team leader for Morgan and Logan County NRCS, was among the leaders of the discussion, as were Madeline Hagen, Morgan district manager, and Todd Wickstrom, district board president.

Groundwater, human consumption and whether water is safe for livestock are all concerns, participants said.

The question is at what point does the quality deteriorate so much that water kills the crops instead of growing them.

With more runoff this year than in recent years, water will have more foreign material in it.

Municipalities such as Wiggins using reverse osmosis are allowed to flush the by-products of that process into the river when the flow in the river is sufficient, participants said, but that is far from the only concern.

Human hormone supplements in the water are on the rise, as are total dissolved solids.

Salt people put on sidewalks and residue from water softeners are also factors.