Officials prepare for big spring runoff

Even though snow has been lacking in Craig, the amount that's dropped in the mountains has officials looking at the possibility of unusually high rivers this spring.

Any flood danger to Craig is unlikely, said Randy Call, Craig road and bridge director. He says this "isn't even winter compared to the snow we had in '83 and '84."

Still, the snowpack in high elevations causes Kandace Lukow with the Colorado Department of Transportation to think there could be a potential problem when the spring melt comes.

"Our biggest concern in Moffat County is where the Elkhead River crosses Highway 40, about five miles east of Craig," Lukow said.

"In fact, CDOT road crews have been doing prep work this week in anticipation of high runoff, clearing weeds and debris from the areas near culverts and bridges.

"We always have trouble spots with trees caught on bridges and in box culverts," Lukow said.

When trees do get lodged against the abutments, CDOT crews will try to push them under the bridge but not remove them.

"We're not in the tree-removal business." Lukow said. "The environmental guys like those trees in the river for fish habitats."

Another area CDOT is watching for potential flooding problems is the area near Saddle Mountain Ranch and the Twenty-mile drainage in Routt County.

Snowpack measurements give officials the basis for their high-water concerns.

Kim Vogel at the U.S. Forest Service said "Tuesday's snowpack measurement on Buffalo Pass showed 138 inches, a substantial increase from last year's 94 inches recorded on the same date.

"March and April usually have a lot more moisture than other months," Vogel said.

Call thinks the only potential problem areas for Craig might be near the river, "maybe by the water plant and sewer plant," he said.

"In the spring of '84 we had to rebuild the access road to the water treatment plant when the river came out of its banks," he said.

Ice jams also were a problem in 1984, Call said.

"We used our backhoe to push the ice under the bridges," he said.

With potentially heavy precipitation still ahead, Moffat County could face problems if the snow melts quickly.

"Rain is a big concern," Lukow said. "It melts snow faster, like running water on ice cubes."

"Water," Lukow said, "is the most destructive force we deal with."

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 208, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com.

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