Glenwood Springs has received approval for a loan of up to $ 8 million from the state to modernize its water system to deal with the impacts of the Grizzly Creek fire last summer.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved the loan for system redundancy and preprocessing improvements at its regular meeting on Wednesday. The money comes from the 2020 Wildfire Impact Loans, an emergency cash pool authorized in September by Governor Jared Polis.
The loan will allow Glenwood Springs, which draws most of its municipal water supply from No Name and Grizzly creeks, to reduce the high sediment load in the water supply from the creeks as a result of the fire, which has started Aug. 10 and burned over 32,000 acres in Glenwood Canyon.
Significant portions of the No Name and Grizzly Creek drainages were burned during the fire, and according to the National Resources Conservation Service, the drainages will experience three to 10 years of high sediment loading due to soil erosion in the watershed. . Heavy rain or spring runoff over the burn scar will drag ash and sediment – which is no longer held in place by charred vegetation in steep canyons and ravines – into local streams. In addition, burnt soils do not also absorb water, which increases the extent of flooding.
The city will install a sediment disposal pond at the site of its stream diversions and install new pumps at the Roaring Fork River pumping station. The Roaring Fork has generally been used as an emergency power supply, but the project will allow it to be used more regularly for increased redundancy. During the early days of the Grizzly Creek fire, the town did not have access to its Grizzly and No Name water intakes, so it closed them and switched to its Roaring Fork supply.
The city will also install a concrete mixing pond above the water treatment plant, which will mix both the No Name / Grizzly Creek feed and the Roaring Fork feed. All of these infrastructure improvements will ensure that the water treatment plant receives water with most of the sediment already removed.
“It was a financial blow that we weren’t expecting to take, so the CWCB loan is totally doable for us, and we really appreciate that he’s out there and we’re considering him for it,” Glenwood Springs director of public works Matt Langhorst said Wednesday. “These are projects that we need to move forward with at this point. If this (loan) was not an option for us, we would be hard pressed to figure out how to achieve it financially.
Without the improvement project, the sediment will overload the city’s water treatment plant and could lead to long and frequent downtimes to remove excess sediment, according to the loan request. The city, which provides water to around 10,000 residents, may not be able to maintain an adequate water supply during these shutdowns.
Depending on the loan application, the city will repay the loan over 30 years, the first three years at zero interest and 1.8% thereafter. The work, which is being carried out by Carollo Engineers and SGM, began this month and is expected to be completed by spring 2022.
Langhorst said the city plans to have much of the work done before next spring’s runoff.
“Yes, there is an urgent need to get several parts and pieces of what the CWCB lending us money for,” he said.
The impacts of this year’s historic wildfire season on the state’s water supply was a topic of conversation at Wednesday’s meeting. CWCB director Rebecca Mitchell said her agency has hired a team of consultants to help communities – through a watershed restoration program – with grant applications, technical analyzes and other supports to mitigate the impacts of forest fires.
“These fires often create problems that go beyond the impacts of the fires themselves,” she said. “We know that the residual impacts of these fires will last at least five to seven years. “
Aspen Journalism is a non-profit, local investigative news organization covering water and rivers in conjunction with The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent and other Swift Communications newspapers. This story took place in the November 19 edition of post-independence Glenwood Springs.