GARFIELD COUNTY, Colo. — Garfield County is continuing its support of an Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) plan to help property owners who were impacted by the Grizzly Creek and Pine Gulch wildfires this past summer. The federal recovery program provides funding for mitigation efforts and allows the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to act quickly after natural disasters impact communities.
The EWP program covers the costs of mitigation work on infrastructure and land. The county is continuing to sponsor the efforts by contributing 20 percent of costs, and the NRCS is reimbursing the county the other 80 percent of expenses. The county’s total liability in the efforts cannot exceed $200,000, according to the resolution.
Between October and December, NRCS staff examined the burn scars and evaluated potential threats to ensure the safety of watershed areas, homes, structures and lives. The agency determined potential risks and made improvement recommendations.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), mud and rockslides (debris flows), as well as flash floods, can occur in burn scar areas due to loss of vegetation and stability caused by fires. As little as a half an inch of rainfall in less than an hour can cause a flash flood in burn scar areas.
“Rainfall that would normally be absorbed will run off extremely quickly after a wildfire, as burned soil can be as water repellant as pavement,” the NWS notes.
Garfield County Emergency Manager Chris Bornholdt, who has been appointed community liaison in the matter by the Board of County Commissioners, is reaching out to affected property owners this month. Participation in the program is voluntary and property owners will not be asked to contribute financially.
Last summer, the Pine Gulch Fire burned more than 139,000 acres in western Garfield County, north of Grand Junction, and the Grizzly Creek Fire torched more than 32,000 acres in Glenwood Canyon.
The resolution passed unanimously, 3-0. More information is available at garfield-county.com.