Flood recovery efforts continue on Boulder Ranger District

BOULDER, Colo.– Restoration and recovery work following the devastating floods of 2013 continues on the Roosevelt National Forest west of Boulder this summer. To date, efforts have focused on repairing roads and trails that provide the greatest amount of public access to the most National Forest System lands and offer required reasonable access to private land. Many of these roads and trails provide critical access for emergency response.

The U.S. Forest Service’s flood recovery crew, this week, is moving into Bear Gulch (FSR 235.1, 235.1 A, B, and C, 240.1 and 240.1A ) near Switzerland Trail and Sugarloaf to stabilize and repair motorized routes. From there the crew will head to Rock Creek (FSR 116.2) off Colo. Highway 7 near Allenspark and Park Creek (FSR 202.1) near Bunce School Road.

Later this season, the crew will be working in the Lefthand Canyon trails area, stabilizing slopes to prevent further erosion and sedimentation into the stream. The popular trails system has been closed since September 2013 when the flood event washed out the only access road and primary trails, saturated hillsides and permanently altered the stream course. Some trails in the area will be repaired to a “Maintenance Level 1” standard, which means they will be stabilized and may be available for non-motorized use when the area eventually reopens. The area currently remains closed to all uses.

“The Flood of 2013 significantly changed the landscape,” said Acting Deputy Forest Supervisor Tom Ford. “Some road, trails and facilities ultimately may not be repaired or replaced because they are located in high risk locations where extensive recurring damage is likely or they cannot be reconstructed in the same location under current regulations.”

Ford added that, in the most severely damaged areas, the flood team will focus on soil stabilization, improving drainage and preventing further degradation. The “Maintenance Level 1” status will allow the Forest to store these roads within its system until further analysis about their future can be completed.

Since the 2013 floods, more than 60 miles of National Forest System roads on the Boulder Ranger District have been repaired.

Lower Creek Stream Restoration Project

Also this fall, the U.S. Forest Service and Trout Unlimited are partnering to stabilize and restore a half-mile section of flood-damaged Lower Creek, immediately above its junction with Left Hand Creek. Lower Creek, an intermittent tributary of Left Hand Creek, located at the entrance to the trails area, was severely scoured along the final half-mile stretch above its confluence. The creek bed alignment now runs through portions of the former road bed.

Scouring by the flood revealed high concentrations of lead and debris in the stream banks and channel bottom. As a result, the Lower Creek project will be a time-critical CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act) remediation project. Crews will remediate the area by removing the contaminated soil and debris and stabilizing the stream banks to prevent further erosion. Minimal modifications to stream banks and the former road will be necessary to allow heavy equipment access to the site. Modifications will be returned to natural conditions at the end of the project.

Lefthand and Lower creeks are situated adjacent to a core wildlife habitat area and in a sensitive watershed that provides municipal water to downstream users. “While this project addresses approximately two and a half acres in a much larger landscape of flood damage, it’s a very important half-mile stretch of stream,” said Boulder District Ranger Sylvia Clark. “Stabilizing this area will help prevent sedimentation issues downstream and will be an important first step in getting this area reopened to the public.”

For more information about the impacts of the flood and the current status of roads and trails in the area, please visit www.fs.usda.gov/goto/arp/flood2013.