Steamboat resident searches for cause of flooding
Ice damming issues build up along Yampa River west of town
February 3, 2012
Steamboat Springs — A west Steamboat Springs homeowner is dealing with an unexpected issue this year: winter flooding.
The cause of the flooding at Cindy Ruzicka's home still is unclear, though some suspect it could have something to do with the lack of snow this winter allowing running water to escape from the ground and freeze into ice dams. Ruzicka, whose home backs up to the wetlands between Honeysuckle Lane and U.S. Highway 40, says a new Habitat for Humanity project next to her Riverside neighborhood home also might be contributing to the flooding.
In the dozen years that her family has lived there, Ruzicka said, they've never had water in their backyard. They're also running their sump pump all day, something else she says they've never experienced before.
Ruzicka said she's worried that the foundation for the Habitat development may have blocked an underground spring. She said the issue is affecting some of her neighbors, too.
"At this point, we have future concerns for the foundation of our home," Ruzicka said. "If there's this much water collecting now, what's to say in a few years it won't shift our foundation?
"We don't want to be bad neighbors. We're supportive of the Habitat families. This is a working-class neighborhood. We just want to make sure if there's damage to our home, someone helps to mitigate the problem."
City of Steamboat Springs Public Works Engineer Ben Beall, who has met with Ruzicka, said there have been ice damming issues on the west side of town. He said the city has cleaned out some culverts that have backed up as a result.
Beall said snow acts as an insulator for water, and without it, the water can flow freely. He said it freezes overnight and the process starts again the next day. The issues extend farther west.
"The (Yampa) River appears to be acting a little odd this year," said Doug Baker, manager of the Steamboat II Metropolitan District. "The water levels are up. Steamboat Golf (Club) has some water on it."
Baker said there are ice dams 3 to 4 feet tall along the river near the golf course.
Steamboat Powersports property manager Julie Desperes said the Riverside Plaza parking lot has experienced some flooding and icing issues on its east side. She said they hired a contractor to break up the ice and move it.
Habit for Humanity Executive Director Jody Patten wrote a letter to Ruzicka to respond to her concerns. In the letter, Patten said the project had all the required approvals, including an independent soils study, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit for the wetlands and a city building permit.
Patten added that during construction, there wasn't any water coming to the surface from an underground spring.
"I want to assure you that Habitat took great care to protect the wetlands during our excavation phase this fall and implemented all of the mitigation measures required by the city," Patten wrote.
Patten suggested that the neighborhood approach the city about doing a study to determine the wetlands' ability to handle additional water during high runoff years, like this past spring, as well as during low snow years.
Beall said it might be too early to determine the cause of the flooding near Ruzicka's home. He said it could take until the spring.
Ruzicka just wants to make sure her family's home is protected.
"We just want to get people's attention to make sure we don't get lost in this whole process," she said.
To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com