Steamboat Springs The Yampa Valley Electric Association is investigating the cause of last week's River Road mudslide amid allegations from a property owner that the electric company's recent trenching in the area is to blame.
The Sept. 6 slide sent a swath of mud, boulders and cottonwood trees 75 feet down a hillside below the Tree Haus neighborhood just outside city limits. Debris flowed onto Routt County Road 14, or River Road. The road has been periodically closed for the past week as crews work on removing the debris and stabilizing the hillside.
Routt County officials say they think recent heavy rains caused the slide, not new construction in the Tree Haus neighborhood or trenching by YVEA.
Valeria Perea, who owns the property where the slide occurred, acknowledged Thursday that rain may have played a part in the incident, but she continued to maintain YVEA's trenching work was the original catalyst. She said she is considering taking legal action against YVEA and Routt County.
YVEA spokesman Jim Chappell declined to comment on the matter until the investigation is complete.
River Road has been periodically closed from the Brooklyn neighborhood to Mount Werner Road while Routt County Road and Bridge crews work on the area. The closure schedule has ensured that school buses can continue to run as scheduled. Engineering firm Northwest Colorado Consultants is helping Road and Bridge with the work.
Drainage remains an ongoing problem at the site, where mud and water still clog a ditch on the road's shoulder. Last week, Road and Bridge Director Paul Draper identified clearing the ditch as the top priority because seepage from the standing water could affect the road's stability.
"The problem won't go away until the water does, and there's a lot of water there," Draper said.
Rock trucked in from Mays-ville is being used to shore up the slide area. The road will be open to traffic until Monday while crews await delivery of more rock.
"We started with 150 tons, and we might need that much more," Draper said Thursday.
Perea said she has hired a company to divert a natural spring that runs down the slope.
Although Perea said she is appreciative of the county's work, she said she has been unable to make any headway in talking to YVEA or its legal counsel.
Perea stressed she wants to have the hillside repaired "as painlessly as possible," and she said legal action would be a last resort.
"I absolutely have to protect my property. I have to protect my investment," Perea said. "If the electric company did cause the slide, they're responsible. That's the bottom line."
River Road will close again at 8 a.m. Monday, and periodic closures are expected to continue in the coming weeks.