Friday, June 12, 2015

High Water Continues in La Plata County, but no road closures or evacuations

Officials from several agencies have continued to monitor high water conditions on several streams and rivers in La Plata County.  No evacuations have been made, but some property owners downstream of Vallecito Reservoir have reported minor flooding and water in areas where there has been no water in recent years.  Yesterday, the Upper Pine Fire Protection District filled over 200 sandbags for homes and worked hard to remove debris from bridges along the Pine River to ensure bridge integrity and prevent flooding around the bridges.  The La Plata County Sheriff’s Office patrolled the Pine River below the Vallecito Reservoir watching bridges and flow to ensure safety.

The National Weather Service has a flash flood watch in place for La Plata County.  A flash flood watch means that conditions may develop that lead to flash flooding.  Heavy rain is still in the forecast for the next few days.  Forecasters are expecting storms today that could produce ¼ to ¾ inch of precipitation.  Additional thunderstorms are expected Saturday afternoon and scattered showers are forecasted for Sunday.  In anticipation of the additional moisture from these storms, the heavy discharge out of Lemon and Vallecito Reservoirs will continue for the next few days depending upon weather patterns, moisture accumulations and upper elevation temperatures in the headwater areas of the streams.  If rain falls on snow in the high elevations, it could cause a noticeable increase in the snowmelt resulting in high runoff into the streams.

Lemon and Vallecito Reservoirs were nearing full capacity when we received the late season, heavy snow accumulation in the headwaters of streams and rivers that pass through La Plata County and two tropical weather systems this month that created significant increases to the inflows going into the reservoirs.  Consequently, operators of those two irrigation structures had to make room for the additional water by discharging large volumes of water out of the reservoirs.  This has led to significant flows downstream of the reservoirs.  As a result, property owners below the reservoirs are experiencing larger water volumes in the Florida and Pine Rivers as water is released to create additional retention capacity in the reservoirs.  These large, controlled discharges are intended to prevent larger, uncontrolled flooding out of the reservoirs. 

No other significant issues have been reported for County Roads overnight, but motorists are urged to drive carefully as they may encounter debris and mud on the roads.  Motorists should not drive into areas where the water covers the roadway. The water depth may be too great to allow a safe crossing. If flooding is observed, act quickly. Do not enter the water. Turn around and move up to higher ground.

“There has been an excellent multi-agency process that has brought many professionals to the table to observe and predict impacts from these conditions,” said Butch Knowlton, La Plata County Emergency Management Director.  “There is just not one expert that can address all of the issues that this type of event creates.  Therefore all of those people coming together to share their expertise and knowledge has been impressive, and very much appreciated.”

Some of the agencies coordinating the efforts include: Pine River Irrigation District, Bureau of Reclamation, Colorado Division of Water Resources, Dam Safety Office in Denver, National Weather Service, NOAA, Colorado River Basin Forecast Center, Upper Pine Fire Protection District, Los Pinos Fire Protection District, Bayfield Marshal, CDRC Corps of Engineers, Southern Ute Tribal Officials, US Forest Service Columbine and San Juan Hotshots, La Plata County Road and Bridge, La Plata County Office of Emergency Management and Sheriff’s Department, La Plata County Search and Rescue, and numerous ditch companies and water users.

The National Weather Service is the best source for weather updates.  Visit them online at  

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