Eagle River Park construction to begin this winter, still needs fed approval | VailDaily.com

Eagle River Park construction to begin this winter, still needs fed approval

EAGLE — The only thing standing between Eagle and its Eagle River Park is the federal government.

The optimistic folks with the town do not expect the feds to be standing there much longer.

The U.S. Corps of Engineers still has to issue the permits before work can begin in the river, which it hopes to have in a couple weeks, Morgan Landers, Eagle's community development director said.

Eagle hosted a conference call Thursday, Nov. 16, attended by more than two dozen people anxious to put their kayaks in the water.

They learned that Eagle has been working on Army Corps permits since March. The town staff had hoped that the feds would issue those permits by September, but still hope to start construction this winter, Landers said.

Local company chosen

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Hobbs Excavating & Trucking will build the water features in the Eagle River. Hobbs is based in Gypsum, and has been around since 1973.

"The whitewater park construction is the first phase of the greater Eagle River Park plan," said Colleen Kaneda, project manager. Hobbs brings you Crawling to a Cure every summer, a cancer research benefit, and has all sorts of experience with water projects, Landers said. It will build the in-stream features and a maintenance path along the riverbank.

Hobbs brings you Crawling for a Cure at the Eagle County Fairgrounds, an annual breast cancer benefit featuring four-wheel drive trucks.

"Essentially, we're going for the same thing. One is water and one is dirt, and the emphasis is on creating as much fun as possible," Stuart Hobbs said. "We're so excited to be part of this project."

The in-river part will have four sets of obstacles, two for more advanced boaters and two for the rest of us.

That 800-foot long stretch of river drops 100 feet. Slalom gates and a judging stand are to be part of the project.

The project will also enhance fish habitat, Hobbs said, oxygenating the water similar to projects they've done in Sweetwater Creek, the Roaring Fork River, Gypsum Creek and Brush Creek, as well as Ledes Reservoir.

Eagle is trying to mobilize this week, and a preconstruction meeting is scheduled for next week.

The construction of all four whitewater features is expected to take at least five months, and it would be helpful if those five months may be consecutive, Landers said. If they're not, then two winter construction seasons would be separated by spring runoff.

But before Hobbs can start managing the water and building the in-river features, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must issue the permit.

Corps Close, but not yet

The Army Corps of Engineers says Eagle is close, but the Corps is not on the habit of saying how long something will take, said Matt Montgomery, who's working the project for the Corps of Engineers.

To build the in-river part of the water park, Hobbs Excavating will have to make manage the water so they have a mostly dry river bottom to work with.

Into that dry-ish river bottom will be placed boulders embedded in concrete and other obstacles to create the kind of whitewater playground in which kayakers and other thrill seekers like to play.

Putting stuff in a river or other waterway requires a Section 404 permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, so named because it comes from Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

When you install these structures, the intent is to manipulate the river's existing hydraulics, and possibly sediment movement and lateral stability. That requires a more exhaustive review, Montgomery said.

"The Corps is not an opponent or proponent of any project. We respond to these requests and evaluate them thoroughly," Montgomery said.

Rising costs

When the park was conceived, it was expected to cost roughly $1.6 million, the amount being bandied about when Eagle voters approved a .5 percent sales tax in 2016 to pay for it.

After analyzing various phases of the project, the whitewater park is now expected to cost $2.7 million.

The town staff is asking the public to help find ways to save money on the Upland Park part of the project. They'll survey the public, and park design plans will be based on the results of that survey, Landers said.

The Upland Park is expected to be in place in 2018.

All in, the entire park is expected to cost $5.9 million. Eagle is applying for local, regional, state and federal grants, as well as grants from private foundations to help pay for it.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

About the river Park

• Construction scheduled to begin this winter

• Local company selected Hobbs Excavating & Trucking to build it

• Project still needs approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

• In-river portion: $2.7 million, up from $1.6 million

• Total project: $5.9 million

• Eagle voters approved a 0.5 percent sales tax in 2016 to pay for it

For more information

To receive project-specific updates and information on public involvement opportunities, email Community Development Director Morgan Landers at morgan.landers@townofeagle.org. For more information on the Eagle River Park, visit the project website at eagleoutside.com/riverpark.