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Waldo Canyon Restoration Based On Lessons From Hayman Burn Area

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Volunteers plant pine seedlings in the Hayman Fire Burn Area. (credit: CBS)

Volunteers plant pine seedlings in the Hayman Fire Burn Area. (credit: CBS)

GALLERIES: COLORADO'S WORST WILDFIRES

WESTCREEK, Colo (CBS4) Major restoration projects are underway in Waldo Canyon to stop flash flooding coming out of the burn area. It’s the same kind of work that has just been completed in the Hayman burn area, 11 years after that devastating fire.

Environmentalists say they’re using the lessons they learned in Hayman to better protect Waldo Canyon.

Cellphone video over the past few weeks has captured flash flooding from Waldo Canyon. The water rushing down the canyon is a mixture of mud and debris and causes destruction all along its path. It’s the same kind of flooding that residents in Westcreek saw in the wake of the Hayman Fire.

In 2002, wildfire ripped through 200 square miles of park and private land in Jefferson and Douglas Counties. Eleven years later, the burn scar is prominent, scorched trees still cover the horizon and runoff in the area is still the biggest problem.

The Coalition for the Upper South Platte has done some major projects in the area to stem the flow of flood water, starting with dirt roads, like the old 366 Forest Road. The road has run directly up the canyon and in a rain event it became a direct path for sediment to go into the river.

“We literally blocked this road off at the top and the bottom and created the new road that still provides the access but that eliminated the problems that were associated with the old road,” said Carol Ekarius, executive director of the Coalition for the Upper South Platte.

The group also created a series of catchments to slow the flooding down.

“So as water is coming down in a flood even, instead of having a narrow channel with a lot of energy, we’re getting the water spread out over a wide area with a little bit of energy,” Ekarius told CBS4.

A series of ponds catch the water allowing the sediment to settle out before delivering the water to Trail Creek. Another flood mitigation project includes redesigning culverts along Trail Creek to bring the flow down and add more emergency drainage.

With each project, the Coalition for the Upper South Platte has learned valuable lessons, and now contractors are scrambling to make the same kind of changes in Waldo Canyon.

There is still a lot of work to be done in the Hayman burn area, and there’s a way people can help. The Coalition for the Upper South Platte will be hosting a volunteer team for the Xcel Energy Day of Service. Xcel is hosting nine wildland restoration projects for volunteers along the Front Range on Saturday, Sept. 7. Those working the Hayman area will be doing reseeding and tree planting.

Additional Resources

Sign up to help at Hayman as part of the Xcel Energy Day of Service. That takes place on Saturday, Sept. 7, from 9 a.m. to noon.

CBS4 has partnered with Xcel Energy to provide nine different wildland restoration projects on the Day of Service.

LINK: Xcel Energy Day Of Service | Coalition for the Upper South Platte

Wildfire Resources

- Visit CBSDenver.com’s Wildfire Resources section.

- Read recent Wildfire stories.

Wildfire Photo Galleries

- See images from the most destructive wildfires (Black Forest, Waldo Canyon, High Park and Fourmile) and largest wildfire (Hayman) in Colorado history.

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