The Colorado Department of Transportation will begin replacing undersized culverts on Highway 14 in Poudre Canyon later this year in response to mud and debris slides caused by High Park Fire burn area runoff.
Mudslides closed Highway 14 several times in July. The largest debris field, near mile marker 108, resulted from a July 12 rain storm and covered the road in two places. Trees and boulders swept downhill in the flow that partially blocked the Poudre River.
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CDOT plans to replace six culverts that have either plugged with debris or are undersized given the amount of dirt and debris washing down from the burned, near-naked hillsides in Poudre Canyon.
“Where there were 2- to 3-foot flows in drainage areas before the High Park Fire, there are now 20-foot-wide slide zones filled with whatever the rain washes down — mud, rocks, muck and debris,” said CDOT communication manager Ashley Mohr. “Because of the danger that these flows present when they cross the road, we’ve definitely shortened response times to get them cleared as quickly as possible.”
In addition to patrolling the canyon when heavy rain is forecast, CDOT now has excavation equipment, including front end loaders, staged at three places between mile markers 120 and Stove Prairie Road. One loader is parked about 100-feet from the problematic, mudslide-prone area between mile markers 115 and 116, adjacent to the river’s diversion tunnel.
“CDOT crews are monitoring the canyon and reacting 24/7 now,” Mohr said. “Our priorities are to keep the road open and safe, as well as getting our longer-term projects rolling to mitigate the fire’s after-effects.”
CDOT will hold public meetings about the culvert replacement project with Poudre Canyon residents in August. The design phase should be completed by September, with construction beginning at a later date.
“Poudre Canyon residents have been supportive and welcoming of our road crews and understand that occasional closures due to mudslides are inevitable, said Mohr. “Our crews have been welcomed and supported by residents and we appreciate that.”