The Eagle River Park flood plan compares 2023 and 2019 snowpacks |

The Eagle River Park flood plan compares 2023 and 2019 snowpacks

River Hoeve, Ken Hoeve's son, takes some videos in 2019 of his dad in the Eagle River at Eagle's whitewater park. The river was running at near-record levels, and this year, experts expect similar levels at the river park and are discussing preparations for possible flooding.
Randy Wyrick/Vail Daily archive

In the April 25 Eagle Town Council meeting, council members considered the possibility of flooding at the Eagle River Park in 2023. Comparing this year’s snowpack with what was seen in 2019, town leaders consider the worst-case scenarios.

Eagle Public Works Director Tom Gosiorowski’s report to Eagle Mayor Scott Turnipseed and Town Council detailed two factors that appeared to greatly contribute to Eagle River flooding in Eagle and Gypsum in 2019: snowpack and rapid warming in late May and early June. 

“The snowpack this spring is very comparable to that in 2019,” Gosiorowski’s report read. “Ultimately, the peak flow on the river will be dependent on weather and air temperatures, but there is certainly a greater risk for flood damage this year than there has been in any year since 2019.”

In the Town Council meeting, Gosiorowski explained that there isn’t a great data set to draw from in order to predict the Eagle River’s flow. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration collects data regarding rainfall primarily, he said, not snowpack melt. Though looking at what data is available, Gosiorowski said we’re “tracking almost exactly with 2019 on snowpack numbers.”

When the snow melts each year, Gosiorowski said there is an opportunity to learn more about the patterns. 

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“We’ll probably make better decisions in the future than we can today, but right now, I think the best decisions we can make is by comparing to what happened in 2019,” Gosiorowski said. 

One thing that has been observed, though, is that peak runoff pretty consistently occurs around the first week of June, Gosiorowski said. Should flood damage mitigation measures begin, they’d have to be in place in time for peak runoff, and he said that would take place mid-May. 

Anticipating this possibility, Gosiorowski asked Town Council to consider the possible expense of preventative flood measures versus the cost of restoring potential damages from flooding. Either way, flood response funding would come out of the Town of Eagle Repair, Maintenance and Grounds general fund. He said that in 2019, “the value of materials purchased in 2023 dollars is believed to be approximately $50,000,” as well as over one week of labor by the town’s entire public works crew. 

“I believe that if we experience flooding similar to what occurred in 2019, we would expect to expend at least $50,000 to purchase the replacement materials, thus we can regard this as the financial risk we might face,” Gosiorowski said. 

If the Town Council opts to execute temporary flood mitigation measures, Gosiorowski described installing a temporary levee along the Eagle River Park gravel pathway. Gosiorowski said that if it were implemented in 2019, a temporary levee would have reduced flood damage significantly. 

The town of Eagle owns large concrete blocks that can be wrapped in plastic sheeting and constructed into a levee — “very similar to the sandbag levies we have seen on media coverage of large flood events.” However, the amount of blocks the town owns is insufficient to create such a levee on their own, and Gosiorowski anticipates an additional $20,000 needed to purchase the remaining materials and transport them to the river park. 

If the levee gets temporarily added to the park, that and any other flood mitigation materials will not prevent users from recreating there, Gosiorowski said. 

“People absolutely can still use the river park, you’d have normal access to the beach areas and that sort of thing,” Gosiorowski said. “It’s just going to look different down there, say (for) a period of three or four weeks.”

Should flood damage occur, access may be limited, however. When the Public Works department worked to clean up flood damage in 2019, Gosiorowski said the river park essentially became a construction zone for about two weeks. 

Is the $20,000 investment in flood damage protection justified given the possible $50,000 loss like what was experienced in 2019? 

Gosiorowski said that with 2019 as a reference point, there is still ample opportunity for a flood event to be bigger — far bigger. 

“(Damage prevention) is an insurance measure against a certain kind of event,” Gosiorowski said. “Given how recently that was and how freshly the memory — the image — was, it kind of seemed like a prudent thing to consider.”

At the April 25 Town Council meeting, a motion was made to appropriate the funds regarding Eagle River Park flooding at a later time when council can give a more solid indication of direction. 

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