With funding from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), ARWC collaborated with Chaffee County and residents impacted by the Decker Fire - and subsequent flooding - to address issues most likely to negatively impact life, safety, property, recreation, and the delicate ecological systems of the Arkansas River watershed. Projects were designed to protect life and safety, provide education and reduce the potential for non-point source pollution that impacts water quality by improving post-fire areas to reduce sediment and contaminant delivery into the Arkansas River.
Bar ditch improvement in Loggie Gulch
ARWC increased the capacity of a stormwater drainage system bar ditch below the burn scar to accomodate heavier storm flows. The work allows the structure to hold more sediment and help prevent property damage below the structure.
We reinforced a stock pond full of water and sediment at risk of breaching, and re-contoured and reinforced an emergency spillway. We used log structures to protect the channel and encourage the water to spread out and deposit sediment in a field.
ARWC worked in partnership with River Science, Canon City Water, and Colorado Springs Utilities to install two turbidity sensors between Canon City and Salida to allow the water providers enough time to react to precipitation and sediment runoff from post-fire areas that threaten drinking water supplies and infrastructure.
We are thankful for the opportunity to partner with CDPHE and aid those who are affected by the Decker Fire. Although this funding provided some relief to address the most pressing issues that could impact life, property, recreation, and the environment, we know that it cannot solve all the existing problems. Therefore, we provided education and outreach as part of our activities to inform landowners, partners, recreators, and downstream users of the potential risks and threats due to post-fire flooding. We hope to encourage individuals to act independently to protect their properties and inspire other federal, state, and local partners to join us in the recovery and protection of our watershed. Our outreach included educating landowners about how to handle ash, debris removal, water rights, and educating the county on EWP procedures, identifying areas of concern.
ARWC installed cribbing structures to protect Pass Creek Road in the Spring Creek Fire burn scar area. The structure utilizes burned, but stable trees from the area to stabilize the road and prevent deterioration and washout caused by post-fire flooding. Pass Creek Road provides critical ingress and egress for local residents, emergency responders, utility and services providers, and travelers in the area.
ARWC is on the ground in the Spring Creek Fire burn area completing digital elevation mapping in partnership with River Science. This imaging will help ARWC choose and prioritize sites to implement post-fire recovery projects for the most positive impacts.
Also this summer, ARWC cleared out a pool at Sulphur Springs to create a sediment catchment basin which worked to successfully slow down and catch sediment during two flood surges on July 27 and August 3. We are developing new projects in Middle Creek, Indian Creek and Pass Creek.
As the rainy season approaches, we want to remind area residents to begin preparing now for post-fire flooding in the Decker Fire burn area. Areas below the Decker Fire burn scar face risks to safety, homes, roads, trails, and water supplies from post-fire flash flooding. While projects are underway to assist landowners and others with recovery, there is significant work you can do now - before the rainy season is upon us.
Education and preparedness are the first line of defense.
Hillsides stripped by the fire of trees and other vegetation are unable to absorb rainfall which creates what we call a “bulking factor”. The bulking factor takes into consideration increased runoff due to reduced vegetation and the collection of debris (burned trees, soils, etc.). The bulking factor in post-fire conditions results in dangerous flash flooding even in drainages or draws that have historically been dry. Burned and unstable soils break apart easily even with modest amounts of precipitation and burned trees and debris can be swept down during a flash flood and cause severe injuries and threats to life and property. Educating and preparing yourself will go a long way to creating a safe and secure environment on your property.
By taking a few basic but vital steps you can prepare yourself for potential post-fire flooding. We ask you all to be safe, be prepared, and be informed. For more information, links, resources, and contacts to help you prepare for post-fire flooding please visit the Chaffee Recovers website.
REGISTER NOW FOR CHAFFEE COUNTY EMERGENCY ALERTS
PURCHASE FLOOD INSURANCE
REVIEW PREPAREDNESS & RECOVERY RESOURCES
POSTPONED - As we join our community - locally and globally - to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we are delaying this project and other in-person meetings and gatherings. We continue to work on fire and flood recovery which impacts the safety of our communities, but will postpone volunteer projects until it is safer for us to gather.
Revegetation plays a crucial role in post-fire recovery. Vegetation helps hold the soils in place, preventing channelization of flood flows and reduces the amount of sediment and debris moving downstream during a flood event. Vegetation is key to long-term sustinability in post-fire conditions.
Join the Arkansas River Watershed Collaborative (ARWC) and the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association (GARNA) for a day of seeding in Upper Bear Creek Drainage. ARWC is seeking volunteers to help spread a native seed mix and mulch on private property that was burned in the Decker Fire.
Thank you to GARNA for gathering volunteers, and cheers to Western Native Seed in Coaldale for providing seed and to Chaffee County for bringing the mulch. Fire recovery is a community-wide process and we are grateful for our partners.
If you are interested in volunteering or donating funds towards additional native seed and cover crop seed please Contact Us.
The Community Recovery Fair on February 29 provided an opportunity for those impacted by the Decker Fire - and their concerned neighbors - to gather to learn more about fire preparedness and post-wildfire safety and preparedness. Learn more.
Chaffee County and the Decker Fire Recovery Team are hosting a Decker Fire Recovery Fair from 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday, February 29th at the Chaffee County Fairgrounds -10165 CR 120, Salida, CO 81201.
The community preparedness fair is open to all of Chaffee County and surrounding area, including Fremont and Saguache counties, and is designed for all residents - including those affected by the fire and those who want to learn to be prepared for future wildfires, flooding and other natural disasters. We live in a fire-adapted part of the Southern Rockies, and wildfires will continue to become more frequent across Colorado.
Professionals will be on site to provide guidance on flood insurance, forest and flood mitigation, business continuity, well water testing, building emergency evacuation kits, animal safety, property assessments, communication strategies, donation and volunteer management, and evacuation and re-entry planning.
Canon City High School students collected data from fire-impacted creek drainages last summer and fall to study how waterways are affected by fire. They continue their study in 2019, but their first set of data are available here:
The Canon City Daily Record featured a story covering some of the recovery work in the Big Cottonwood drainage:
During July and August 2019, volunteer crews removed debris and trash from the Big Cottonwood drainage. The crews are from the Work Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program - part of the Upper Arkansas Area Council of Governments program in Canon City. Thank you so much to our committed volunteers who are working hard to improve conditions in the fire-impacted drainages. You can learn more about the program here:
With the help of a forester and sawyer from the Arkansas River Watershed Collaborative (arkcollaborative.org) and crew leader from River Science (river.science), crews removed trees in or falling in to the creek from heavily eroded banks, preventing these from becoming hazards to life and property downstream in another flood event. They also deconstructed and hauled out three large debris deposits containing woody materials and trash from the July 24, 2018 flood and subsequent floods. Removing these jams and deposits allows water and additional debris to move more freely down the channel during a flood, encouraging flows to pass through rather than collecting and diverting water toward people, homes and roads. The crews removed a large amount of trash including small pieces of microtrash as well and large pieces of metal and equipment deposited during last July's high flow flood. Clearing out trash prevents these materials from continuing to contaminate the natural system, and supports natural regeneration of plant and animal communities, including the fishery.
We are working on bringing crews back again in the spring, in addition to other volunteer groups, to complete needed work we identified with the help of landowners and field experts who have been working with the recovery team since this spring. Look for Chelsey, Luke and Kate in the field, or Contact Us with questions.