Rivers rising fast in valley

Flows already higher than last year


No one knows for sure what happened to the D-Hole. The only thing river users know is that the kayak feature in the Yampa River is gone -- washed out.

The water feature has turned from a play hole to a front wave in the face of the fast-rising Yampa River, and runoff is still weeks from its expected peak.

On Thursday, the Yampa was flowing at 1,880 cubic feet per second, already higher than last year's peak flow of 1,200 cfs.

Snow pack as of Thursday morning at the summit of Buffalo Pass measured 48.7 inches. Snow pack measures the amount of water in the snow, meaning that there is 4 feet of water waiting to melt.

"Which is incredible," Mount Werner Water District Manager Bob Stoddard said.

One of Stoddard's responsibilities is to monitor Fish Creek Reservoir, Steamboat's primary source of water.

Run off began a week and a half later this year than last, but the snow is now rapidly melting.

Fish Creek Reservoir is 85.7 percent full, Stoddard said. It started filling three days ago and he expects it to be full in 10 days. Then he expects more runoff.

The water will run over the spillway and into the creek, he said.

Peak runoff should happen the first week of June.

"It depends on the weather," he said, "but it's supposed to be very warm. It's going to start raging here soon."

As temperatures rise, the snow melts and the Yampa River continues to swell, it is causing problems on some river-related recreational opportunities.

Steamboat Springs Parks, Recreation and Open Space supervisor Mike Neumann refused to speculate on what happened to the D-Hole, whether the force of the water had moved the boulders that made the foundation of the feature or if it was not designed for higher water levels.

"I don't know if there have been any structural changes but it definitely has a different appearance," Neumann said. "It could be due to a number of things, but we won't know until the water levels go down."

The D-Hole feature was built last spring, when water levels only reached 1,200 cfs. Steamboat has never seen what the D-Hole looks like under high water.

Gary Lacey designed D-Hole, named for its proximity to the Depot. Neumann was unsure of Lacey's vision for the feature's optimal flow levels, and Lacey could not be reached for comment.

When the water levels drop, Neumann said, city employees will repair the feature if it is needed.

"It's just like any other recreational facility," he said. "If it needs a repair, we'll fix it. It's no big deal."

Meanwhile, water has been spilling over onto the Yampa River Core Trail, flooding the Walton Creek underpass, the train trestle underpass, the underpass upstream from Fetcher Park and, periodically, the 13th Street underpass.

"It will be awhile before the water goes away," Neumann said. "But we anticipated this when we built a trail in the flood plain. It's not a surprise, just a temporary inconvenience."


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