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Keystone drainage improvements do job

Aidan Leonard

SUMMIT COVE – First there was the rain. Lots of it.

Three to four inches of it fell in one day in 1999, equating to a “500-year event,” according to County Engineer Rick Pocius. The microburst that battered Summit Cove sent rivers of water streaming across the development and left damage in its wake.

In the aftermath, residents pointed to the construction of the Keystone River Course as the cause. For the next three years, they said the deforestation precipitated by the gold course’s construction and water-saturated soil from its irrigation left the runoff with no place to go but down and into Summit Cove.

“There was a large amount of water,” Pocius said. “(The drainage system) wasn’t designed for that amount of water.”

Now it is.

After a lawsuit or two and innumerable complaints to Keystone and county officials, owner Vail Resorts and Summit County government collaborated to begin work last October. By mid-December a re-vamped drainage system was pretty much in place, though the paving of an impacted road was completed only in June.

Half a million dollars later, all that’s left is a little re-seeding near the golf course and the project will be complete.

With no complaints yet this year, the situation finally appears to be resolved.

“Between (the Board of County Commissioners) not getting any phone calls and us not getting any phone calls, it’s done,” Pocius said. “The bottom line is it works.”

To mitigate the problems, a 30-inch pipe about 200 yards long was put in place, feeding water from a depression near the end of the driving range on the River Course into a ditch running alongside Swan Mountain Road toward the water treatment plant. Berms were constructed and people now seem happy.

“It appears that it’s keeping the water on the golf course property, which is great for us,” local resident Boyd Mitchell said.

The system was designed to handle up to 16,000 gallons of water a minute and has yet to experience anything even close to testing its capacity.

“During spring runoff, there was no water coming anywhere into the roadside ditches,” Pocius said. “We (even) probably eliminated some potential drainage problems outside of what was happening in the golf course.”

“I kept watching them all spring to see them even a quarter full with runoff,” Public Works Director John Polhemus said. “I never did see it.”

Pocius, Polhemus and Assistant County Manager Steve Hill all said that the completion of the project after so much turmoil was a tremendous relief and will now free much of the county’s resources to pursue other projects.

“I think it was on everybody’s plate,” Hill said. “Once construction got started, people eased up because something was being done.”

However, during a tour, as he came upon a culvert cluttered with construction debris, he added that the county would now require citizens’ help in ensuring the system remained clear and functioning.

“All the work in the world that we do can be undermined by that,” Hill said, indicating the debris. “We can’t be monitoring every bridge and every culvert, but that’s where the citizens’ responsibility takes over.”

“People just need to be aware,” Pocius said. “Roadside ditches seem to be a nice place to throw their trash instead of taking it to the dump and paying their tipping fees.”

Pocius and Polhemus said they had pulled everything from couches to torn river rafts from culverts, even wood debris piled up by citizens hoping to lure back a beaver whose structure county maintenance workers had cleared away.

For now though, things seem to be running smoothly.

Polhemus said the system proved its worth once again earlier this week when heavy rains pounded the area.

“I think we would have had flooding in the Cove yesterday if we hadn’t had this in here,” he said Tuesday.

And with residents happy, Pocius said he was satisfied.

“We’re just all happy it’s positive,” he said.

Aidan Leonard can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or aleonard@summitdaily.com.


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