Wildfire mitigation work at a rural home.

Watershed protection projects continue in burn areas

Garfield County contracted SGM Engineering, Kuersten Construction on mitigation efforts

June 9, 2021

Garfield County has contracted with local businesses on an Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWPP) to help mitigate potential impacts, such as mudslides or flash flooding, in areas affected by the Pine Gulch and Grizzly Creek fires last summer.

The Pine Gulch Fire, which was located north of Grand Junction, consumed more than 139,000 acres, many of which were in western Garfield County. The Grizzly Creek Fire burned more than 32,600 acres in and around Glenwood Canyon.

The EWPP team, which consists of engineers from SGM, staff from Kuersten Construction, Garfield County Emergency Operations Commander Chris Bornholdt, and Garfield County Construction Contract Administrator Scott Henriksen, reported to the Board of County Commissioners that nearly all the engineering projects for the area of the Pine Gulch Fire are completed and roughly half have been constructed.

Projects include bank stabilization, berm placement, the addition of new stream channels and swales, muscle wall placement to create artificial streambanks and more to channel any potential water or mud away from structures, should a debris flow occur.

The team added that projects in the No Name area began last week and mitigation design work at Bair Ranch is underway.

“We just pulled in and in the first phase there’s some work to be done in-stream,” said John Kuersten, owner of Kuersten Construction. “We have some issues with habitat, fish spawning and high water, so that might have to wait until later in the fall, but we’re going to do all the work we can right now over the next couple weeks.”

Through May 2021, engineering costs reached $80,000 and construction $154,000. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is reimbursing the county 100 percent of engineering costs and 80 percent of construction expenses.

The contracts initially were set at $150,000 for engineering and $535,000 for construction, though those estimates were set in December 2020 and costs have since increased. The NRCS set an overall budget of $1 million for the work, and the project isn’t estimated to cost more than that amount.

Reimbursements are made on a quarterly basis, and the county has already received its first quarter reimbursement from the NRCS. The second-quarter reimbursement is slated for the end of June.

Commissioner John Martin asked the team if any flash flooding has been seen in Glenwood Canyon around the burn scar, following a flash flood watch advisory sent out by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) this past weekend.

“We haven’t seen any,” Kuersten replied. “We received the notice but haven’t heard of anything happening yet.”

Any reports of potential flash flooding are posted to the county’s emergency management feed at garfieldcounty.net. Sign up for emergency notices at the Garfield County Emergency Communications Authority emergency notification system at garco911.com/emergency-notification-system.

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