June 29, 2021

Protective Booms at Grand Lake Mark Next Phase in East Troublesome Fire Recovery

While new wildfires across Colorado and the West are creating another year of smoky skies and damaged forests, work to contain debris and restore watersheds damaged by the East Troublesome Fire has started taking shape in Grand County.

This month, crews started to place a series of booms at the east end of Grand Lake to capture floating debris that could move into the lake from heavy rainstorms that sometimes occur in the summertime. The bright yellow booms are anchored near the intake to the Alva B. Adams Tunnel, which delivers water from the West Slope to the East Slope components of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

In addition to the boom at Grand Lake, two more will be installed at Willow Creek Reservoir to capture debris from that heavily affected watershed. According to damage assessments, more than 90 percent of the Willow Creek watershed suffered damage in last October’s fire.

Work will also be concentrated to capture debris before it reaches the reservoirs. Starting in July, helicopter crews will drop mulch and seeds on burned areas that are inaccessible to ground-based efforts. That material will help to keep soil and debris in place, and in future years will provide appropriate ground cover at those sites.

Other methods for debris containment to be installed include catchment basins where smaller tributaries might be transporting loosened materials.

Funding for the efforts has come from the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Emergency Watershed Protection program and state matching funds from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Finally, Northern Water has also provided a self-service site in Grand Lake where property owners can get sandbags and wattle to protect their property from high-water flows that might occur this year or in the future. In May, employees of Northern Water and Grand County volunteered to fill sandbags using equipment donated by the Salvation Army.

Because of the importance of the Upper Colorado River watershed to the Colorado-Big Thompson Project and the drinking water for more than 1 million residents in Northeastern Colorado, Northern Water has taken a lead role with Grand County as local sponsors for the Emergency Watershed Program.

A work crew prepares to install a debris boom at Grand Lake. The boom will prevent floating debris from entering the Alva B. Adams Tunnel.
The final position of the debris boom at Grand Lake will protect the inlet to the Alva B. Adams Tunnel.