Garfield County eyes projects for flood protection

Landowners and public officials in Garfield County are hoping to get bank stabilization work done this fall to provide protection from future flooding after high-water flows damaged property earlier this year.

The Bookcliff Conservation District is seeking county support for federal grant money to stabilize about 1,200 feet of Main Elk Creek north of New Castle and about 100 feet of the Colorado River just east of Rifle. County commissioners on Monday appeared anxious to provide that support, assuming their concerns are addressed regarding what kind of easement they might have to acquire to get the projects done.

Spring runoff flooding resulting from heavy winter snowpack destroyed a house and bridge and damaged an irrigation pipeline and Main Elk Creek Road, all along one stretch of the creek. Stabilization work is planned not only on that stretch, but to protect two other homes, a domestic septic system and another bridge.

The Colorado River work involves the property of Yvonne Chambers. A large gravel pit pond was damaged and became part of the river, which has led to concern that the next 300 feet of the former pond dam may erode, endangering her home.

Garfield Commissioner Mike Samson said he visited Chambers’ property this weekend. She “lost a tremendous amount of real estate” when the river changed course, he said.

“Next year she’ll probably lose a whole bunch more,” he said.

But the effort to try to prevent further damage to Chambers’ property and on Main Elk has been complicated by the easement question. County officials say they’re being told the county may have to acquire permanent rather than temporary easements to property for the work to occur. County commissioners don’t want to do that, and don’t think property owners would like the idea either.

They hope to meet with federal Natural Resource Conservation Service officials soon to get clarification on the matter.

One estimate of the total cost of the projects is just shy of $350,000. Property owners would pay a portion of the cost. The county is being asked to contribute $86,000 and also would spend about $14,000 more on permitting, survey and legal work for any required easements.

The program would be akin to soil stabilization work that has occurred in the county after wildfires stripped vegetation from hillsides, resulting in subsequent flooding or an increased risk of flooding.


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