Melt near landslide following predictable path
Heavy snowfall on Grand Mesa in the latter half of May has Mesa County officials casting wary eyes at the West Salt Creek landslide.
So far, melt has followed the path cut a year ago when the wall of a pond at the top of the slide collapsed, releasing about 120 acre-feet of water down a 2-year-old landslide that killed three men in 2014.
“So far it is doing what we thought,” Pete Baier, the county’s deputy administrator for operations, said in an email. “The channel formed last year is allowing the snowmelt to leave the pond without building up to previous levels.”
Officials have observed a series of smaller slides in the vicinity of the main slide, Baier said.
Crews have visited the slide in recent days and it’s monitored by instruments in the area, Baier said.
“We will continue to observe, especially in light of the additional snow” of recent days, Baier said.
Last year’s collapse of the sag pond — the lake that formed at the top of the land clinging to the side of the mesa after the 2014 slide — eased concerns about the buildup of water on an unstable block of earth.
As it was, the May 27 event resulted in a flood of water that gashed out a chasm down the 3-mile-long slide upstream from Collbran.
The original slide on the morning of May 27, 2014, took place after heavy rains saturated soils atop the mesa that already were wet from the spring thaw.
The resulting landslide unleashed 39 million cubic feet of rock, trees and debris, killing father and son Clancy and Dan Nichols and Wes Hawkins, who were working on an irrigation ditch below the slide.