Study identifies areas in Grand County at risk of fire-related flooding, erosion | SkyHiNews.com

Study identifies areas in Grand County at risk of fire-related flooding, erosion

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, Colorado

High-risk areas prone to flooding and erosion from wildfire have been identified in a draft Upper Colorado Watershed Assessment, the contents of which will be presented at a May 20 public meeting in Winter Park.

A color-coded map shows four watersheds particularly high in risk of flooding and erosion from wildfire ” a threat to drinking water supplies.

Tenmile Creek, Ute Bill Creek to the Colorado River, Pass Creek and Lower and Middle Willow Creek are among watersheds dubbed “zones of concern,” according to forest hydrologist Brad Piehl, the consultant from JW Associates Inc., Breckenridge, who was contracted by Denver Water to conduct the work.

The “Watershed Assessment and Prioritization,” to be completed in two phases, takes a critical look at both the East Slope and West Slope watersheds. For the West Slope, the study includes Summit and Grand County areas.

As many as 30 agencies have been involved in financing and shaping the study, including Grand County, its towns, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Denver Water, local water and sewer districts, the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado State Forest Service and the Colorado River District.

In the draft analysis, mapped reds and oranges indicate areas in the one-million acres Upper Colorado region that from a numeric rating are prime candidates for forest treatments, firebreaks and erosion control.

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In general, those areas are thickly forested, are highly susceptible to soil erosion and contain large percentages of the watershed, Piehl said.

The study focuses on small-scale watersheds 10,000 to 40,000 acres in size.

Hit hard by watershed clean-up costs in the wake of past wildfires, the Denver Water Board spearheaded these efforts to protect crucial water supplies from future wildfire.

With six fires spanning from the Buffalo Creek Fire in 1996 to the Hayman Fire in 2002 ” the catastrophic fire that destroyed 138,000 acres and debilitated the Strontia Springs Reservoir ” Denver Water spent $8 million on post-fire restorations and plans to spend another $25 million in 2010 to remove sediment out of the Hayman-affected reservoir.

Where water flows into the reservoir, more than one million cubic yards of material accumulated from the aftermath of that fire.

A public meeting scheduled from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 20, at Winter Park’s town hall, follows several agency meetings on the analyses of the Upper Colorado.

“I’m really pleased how involved the stakeholders have been,” Piehl said, adding everyone has been enthusiastic about the goal of the study. “It’s been really positive.”

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@skyhidailynews.com.

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