In the Estes Valley, spring runoff typically starts in April and peaks in June. Each spring there is a chance that warmer temperatures and higher than average snow packs will result in higher flows and rising water levels along streams and rivers throughout the Estes Valley. Sudden, prolonged warm spells combined with heavy rains increase the chances of localized flooding. The 2013 flood changed local rivers and streams -- some channels are wider and deeper and can carry more water; others are shallower and narrower and can carry less water. The ground also remains saturated from recent precipitation. Local floodplain managers cannot predict the effects of the upcoming runoff, but there is always a potential for heavy flows.
The Town’s Public Works Department has an action plan for minor and major flood events. Each year staff prepare sand bags, equipment and concrete barriers for short-notice deployment to public areas prone to flooding so that roads, bridges, utilities and public safety are protected.
Owners of property along rivers and streams are encouraged to clear debris and excess sediments where needed to preserve maximum channel capacity. It is ultimately every citizen’s responsibility to protect their own private property and to consider how risks on his or her property affect neighbors upstream and downstream. The Town of Estes Park encourages residents to reach out to their neighbors and work together to address potential problems. Some actions private property owners can take to protect property are:
1. Stabilize undercut and unstable river banks and reduce blockage potential
a. Cut down unstable trees (leave stump and roots in place) that could fall and block water flow along the channel or at downstream bridges and culverts. b. Leave existing roots and small woody and vegetative debris on riverbanks to reduce flow velocities and resist bank erosion.
c. Apply quick-growing seed mixes to bare stream banks, such as Regreen (Triticum aestivum) and other cover crops (i.e., annual species that germinate quickly).
d. Selectively remove problematic debris from river; permits required; contact the Town for assistance.
e. Permits for work in the floodplain are required and available to residents within the Town limits by contacting the Town of Estes Park’s Floodplain Engineer, Greg Gladov, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-577-3577. He is available to provide mitigation advice during the permit process.
2. Prevent or reduce flood water damage using sand bags or hydro barriers.
a. Bags can only be placed adjacent to buildings to divert water around buildings, NOT in the river channels or on the banks as this can interfere with stream flow. Look for supplies at local hardware stores.
b. In the case of an emergency with sudden marked increases in river levels, the Town may open its sand facility for residents to fill their own bags. If necessary, details will be announced at www.estes.org, www.facebook.com/townofestesparkco, and www.twitter.com/townofestespark.
3. Consider purchasing flood insurance for peace of mind. Because the Town of Estes Park participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, all properties are eligible to purchase flood insurance, not just those that are required to hold flood insurance by lenders. Purchase flood insurance with your local agent or at www.Floodsmart.gov. New policies have a 30-day waiting period before they go into effect, so the time to purchase is now.
Finally, the Town of Estes Park requests residents notify the Police Department at 970-586-4000 if they observe water leaving the banks of any river in Estes Park during runoff.
FEMA/Region VIII have provides flood awareness resources at www.fema.gov/r8flood to help educate the public on flooding risk and the National Flood Insurance Program.