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Now is the Time to Prepare for Spring Runoff

river-flood-rain-big-thompsonPrivate property owners encouraged to plan ahead

Springtime in the Rockies is a dynamic season that includes runoff – when melting mountain snow flows into rivers raising water levels. 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. This can generally be forecasted using information on snow pack, predicted weather and knowledge of stream channel capacities. These forecasts generally create a foundation for an enhanced level of readiness.

However, the 2013 flood changed local rivers and streams, making forecasting more difficult. Some channels are wider and deeper and can carry more water; others are shallower and narrower and can carry less water. Also, the ground remains saturated from last year’s rains. While local floodplain managers cannot predict the effects of the upcoming spring runoff, there is potential for heavy flows. The Town is already preparing public property for runoff, and private property owners along rivers and streams should begin planning as well.

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 up 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:

• Remove debris (sediment) from the river to increase channel capacity. Permits are required.

• Protect buildings by purchasing and keeping sandbags/water bags on hand. Bags can be placed adjacent to buildings to divert water around buildings and to stabilize banks, NOT in the river channels.

• Stabilize banks at risk for erosion such as those undercut and unstable. Mitigate now and remove unstable trees. Permits are required.

Permits for all work in the floodplain are required and available to residents within the Town limits by calling the Town of Estes Park’s Building Safety Division at 970-577-3726. Floodplain manager Will Birchfield is available to provide mitigation advice during the permit process.

During runoff, residents and guests should stay a safe distance from stream and river banks, which in some areas have eroded and are less stable as a result of the 2013 flood. Report any overflow of rivers or streams 24 hours-a-day to 970-586-4000. If significant property damage is imminent or if the conditions present a life safety hazard, call 9-1-1.

Approximately 12 properties within the Estes Valley have been identified by the Natural Resource Conservation Services as needing immediate work to protect life and structures from the spring runoff. These properties are eligible to participate in the NRCS Emergency Watershed Protection Program. Eligible property owners have been contacted by Town and/or County representatives.

Fall River and Fish Creek Restoration Coalition meetings for property owners are on-going and include information on both emergency repairs for runoff mitigation as well as long-term planning for watershed restoration. Coalitions create a forum for residents to get to know their neighbors to work cooperative to restore the rivers. For more information please contact the Town of Estes Park’s Community Development Department at 970-577-3721 or email planning@estes.org.

For more information on how to prepare visit www.ready.gov.

© 2014 Estes Park News, Inc

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