Tuesday, May 26, 2015

County declares state of heightened awareness for Landslide

This image from one of the cameras on the West Salt Creek Landslide on the Grand Mesa shows a new stream of water that formed over the weekend. Officials initiated a Level One response after seeing this new water. 

The appearance of a stream of water on the West Salt Creek Landslide has prompted officials to initiate a Level One response.

In the Emergency Action Plan drafted for the Landslide, three levels of response can be initiated. Level One means something has changed that requires a heightened level of awareness. It does not mean citizens near the area face an extra safety risk.

“We expected to see water-related changes in the Landslide during spring runoff,” said Tim Hayashi, Senior Engineer for Mesa County. “But one of the looming questions has been, ‘What would the pond do?’”

The Landslide that struck the Grand Mesa a year ago left a swath of debris 3 miles long and ¾ of a mile wide. What officials call a “sag pond” has formed from rainwater, snowmelt and other runoff near the top of the slide. The new stream of water that has appeared is about 75 feet above the base of what officials call the “slump block.”  

The Town of Collbran is about six miles northwest of the Landslide. Part of the Landslide occurred on property owned by the U.S. Forest Service; the other belongs to private landowners. Because of the instability of the slide area, the U.S. Forest Service restricted area remains in place. That includes the Landslide and 300 yards from the edge of the Landslide.

Mesa County, in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey, Colorado Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service, Department of Parks and Wildlife and state officials continue to monitor the situation. Cameras, monitors and other devices are in place to alert officials of any movement.

Mesa County’s emergency plan calls for immediate notification of the public when conditions become hazardous to citizens. Collbran residents have previously been briefed on the possibility of water spilling over the sag pond or finding a route down the debris area.

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