National Guard helps build site for storm drainage, gains training

Construction has begun on a stormwater detention facility on Bureau of Land Management property on Leach Creek along 27 1/4 road north of Grand Junction. The work is being done by Colorado National Guard, 947th Engineer Company, in partnership with the city of Grand Junction, the 5-2-1 Drainage Authority and the BLM. The Guard gains valuable training skills with this job, says 1st Lt. Eric Carlton, company commander.

Grand Junction Mayor Bill Pitts understands the power and the destruction rushing water from a quick storm over the Bookcliffs can cause residents along the Leach Creek Drainage Basin.

Recalling his children’s treehouse that was knocked flat years ago while touring the stormwater detention site off 27 1/4 Road on Friday, he said: “I can attest to what it does downstream. I’ve lived on Leach Creek for 48 years.”

In August, the Colorado Army National Guard began construction on the project officials say is a necessity to prevent future flooding, damage or even deaths. The Guard partnered with a number of local government agencies to build the facility that otherwise would have been cost-prohibitive.

Maj. Gen. Mike Edwards, the adjutant general of Colorado and commander of the Colorado National Guard, said this is a way for soldiers to get in the field and train for the same kinds of jobs they tackle if deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

“The National Guard is known as citizen soldiers,” Edwards said.

This is their chance to work in their backyard on preventative, lifesaving projects that serve the community, and at the same time gain valuable skills to react in emergencies.

First Lt. Eric Carlton is the company commander of the 947th Engineer Company working onsite. There is not a training facility on the Western Slope, so this a great opportunity for the Innovative Readiness Training program, he said.

When the Guard was activated in 2006, they worked on construction projects that included building roads and a sewer water pond requiring the same equipment and abilities.

“We’ve got engineering tasks we’ve got to be proficient at,” Carlton said. “The big takeaway for us ... obviously there’s a big benefit for the community, is training.”

This project has been identified as a need for about 10 years, said Tim Moore, city public works and planning director and manager for the 5-2-1 Drainage Authority that is made up of Grand Junction, Mesa County, Fruita, Palisade and the Grand Valley Drainage District.

It’s not that storms are frequent, but what makes them unique is that they “dump a lot of water in a very short time,” he said.

When that happens, the water is not absorbed and moves at an intense speed toward the Colorado River.

With the detention facility, water from a storm that could run up to 1,000 cfs will be reduced to 50 cfs along its route from the Bookcliffs near the airport down past Mesa Mall and to the river. Some flooding here has even been seen earlier this year, Moore said.

Kristin Winn, city public information coordinator, showed photos of the flooding along this path July 11, 2011, remembering the impact it had.

“This will hold water in the desert and then it’s not going to come rushing into the city,” she said while looking out over the dry, dusty pond site currently full of large camouflage equipment.

The bowl-like construction that will have a 27-foot high embankment, hold 250 acre-feet of water and alleviate future problems by slowly releasing the water back into the environment is expected to be complete by next spring.


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