Summit County prepares for possible flooding this spring
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Summit County officials say they’re prepared to see high water levels this spring and the possibility of flooding in parts of the county as warm weather reaches the peaks in May and June, following a very snowy winter season.
The deciding factor, determining whether the spring brings river flooding or just a great rafting season, said assistant county manager Thad Noll, will be the weather over the next few months.
“We’re pretty confident that it will be heavy runoff,” Noll said. “(Flooding) is not so much dependent on how much snow is up on the mountains, it depends more on how fast it comes off the mountains.”
A slow, gradual melt would be ideal for avoiding floods later in the season, Noll said, and recent warmer temperatures might make a difference heading into late spring. Noll said the heavy runoff will begin when warmer days are matched by warmer temperatures at night.
To minimize the risk, county officials will be carefully monitoring rivers and creeks alongside roadways, keeping them clear of ice, debris or beaver dams that would obstruct water flow.
“Our goal is to give the water every opportunity to keep moving,” Noll said.
In that, Denver Water will help where they can, though the purpose of the Dillon Reservoir is not to prevent flooding, but to house a water supply.
Representatives of Denver Water said they may be releasing water from the reservoir through the Roberts Tunnel to help maintain reservoir levels and supply on the eastern slope following a dry spring and average snowfall in the south Platte basin, the agency’s primary source for water supply. But water may also be retained in the reservoir to maintain water supply and allow the Frisco Marina to open.
Noll said having water levels lower in the reservoir will allow the lake to absorb some run off and help control flooding in other parts of the basin.
“This is a really high snowpack year, so we’ve got to be especially careful,” said Bob Steger, manager of raw water supply for Denver Water. “We try to reduce the potential flooding , but we can never get rid of it entirely.”
Steger said Denver Water has no control over the water levels and potential flooding of the reservoirs three tributaries, the Blue River, Ten Mile Creek and the Snake River, but can monitor how much water is released into the lower Blue River.
Water flows higher than 1,800 cubic feet per second can overwhelm the Blue River and at some point may cause flooding in nearby backyards. Denver Water tries to regulate the amount of water released into the Blue River but, depending on inflows to the reservoir, isn’t always able to do so.
Noll said the county will monitor runoff and release information about how to handle flooding and mitigate the risk in April.
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