Boulder Co. works to remove 200 debris dams

10:31 PM, Feb 20, 2014   |    comments
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SALINA - In the small town of Salina, it's not hard to find evidence of the power of water.

"People shouldn't expect things to be the same," Transportation Director for Boulder County George Gerstle said.

The changes come in the form of the sometimes small - and sometimes massive - debris dams. They are made up of dirt, rocks, trees and the occasional house. The debris blocks the flow of water in creeks and when spring runoff begins, that could become a big problem.

"It will sort of compress in on itself, hold water back. That will build until it can no longer withstand the forces and then it will release, and that will create a pulse or a surge of water that can come down through the canyon," Boulder County Emergency Management Director Mike Chard said.

It is of special concern in Boulder County, where teams have been mapping out locations of debris dams. So far, they've found 200 scattered across the county. About half of those are considered to be significant enough to potentially cause damage, if they are not removed before mountain snow thaws out.

"We do know that the spring runoff is 100 percent going to happen," Chard said. "We also know that we're trending towards a higher than normal spring runoff."

Emergency managers say it will cost Boulder County about $14 million to remove all of the debris dams they have identified. The problem is, they only have between $3-4 million available to do it.

"That's money from a pretty tight budget," Gerstle said. "So, the money we spend on this isn't available for roads, repairs or other purposes."

That is why Boulder County is looking for help from state and federal agencies, like FEMA, to help pay to clear out the debris dams. They expect an answer from those agencies in a few weeks. In the meantime, they plan to use county money to remove some of the most serious debris.

"We will expect something to happen if we don't do anything-- but that's really not the option right now," Chard said.

Boulder County emergency managers say they plan to begin removing some of the debris dams within two weeks, starting with those that pose the biggest threat to people and property.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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