Cucharas River Channel Restoration
Ongoing Local Efforts
The State Wildland Inmate Fire Team (SWIFT) crews, housed at various correctional facilities in Colorado, provide hand crew support and assistance on wildland fires within Colorado.
The crews are self-sufficient and come with supervisors, basic tools and equipment, and transportation. To ensure that the crews function well, the personnel train together and are maintained as crews throughout the year. They are available year-round for assistance with non-fire, woods-related programs and projects.
The SWIFT Team began cleanup in the Chucharas River through Walsenburg on April 15 and plan to continue work through April 26, 2019. According to Acting Administartor Mark Ellis, the SWIFT Team "is killing it" to the point where City crews are struggling to keep up with hauling off all the debris being removed from the river bottom.
Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster response organization, will launch a four-day flood mitigation operation beginning Friday, April 5th, in Huerfano County, Walsenburg, CO.
Those in the community interested in volunteering can sign up April 5th, 6th and 7th from 7:00am to 8:00am at the Walsenburg Community Center, 928 Russel Ave, Walsenburg, CO.
About Team Rubicon
- Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.
- Team Rubicon is a nonprofit organization offering veterans a chance to continue their service by helping those affected by disasters, and also themselves.
- Programs and services are made possible by the support of individual donors, corporate partners, and the dedication of volunteers across the country.
- To join or support Team Rubicon’s mission, visit www.teamrubiconusa.org.
The Americorps team, UAC sawyers, and Huerfano County personnel are busy with river work at two locations..
- La Veta Site #1 upstream of the Town of La Veta
- Walsenburg Site #1 at the CR 430 (Bear Creek Rd.) Bridge.
April Update - Final Report
The total crew numbers for this project were: NCCC Americorps team (12), UAC sawyers (2) and
Huerfano County supervisor/sawyers (2). Equipment included: 3 chippers, 1 Trailer, 1 tractor, 4 pickup
trucks, 2 porto-potties, 2 brush cutters, 6 chainsaws and kits, and several cutting and other hand tools.
This project started January 6 and ended April 5th 2019.
La Veta Site #1
- Just under 5000 linear ft of this river reach was cleared and snagged. The primary vegetation removal of this reach involved dense stands of mature willow shrub, mostly contiguous for the length of the river.
- Roughly 50 large and numerous smaller snags were dismantled; returning the river to its existing channel and/or channel bottom while increasing flows.
- Several truckloads of trash and metal were also removed from the river channel including large metal objects.
Walsenburg Site #1
- Roughly 2700 ft of channel has been cleared and snagged. The vegetation at this site was predominantly dense stands of medium and large diameter Russian Olive followed by Tamarisk (salt cedar) stands. Dead and down vegetation has also been piled for ~1 mile to the west of the bridge.
- About 27,000 cu yds of R. Olive and Tamarisk has been cut from the channel sides and chipped. Logs, trash, and branches have also been removed from the river bottom.
- In addition to clearing vegetation on the existing river channel sides, a significant amount of vegetation was also removed from a large secondary channel originally created by the WPA project.
- The initial clearing and snagging work at this site will end on April 12.
- Huerfano County and the City of Walsenburg greatly appreciates the dedication and hard work contributed by all project partners and is proud of the accomplishments implemented though this endeavor. It is also inspired by the subsequent efforts of other groups around the area. Large portions of our rivers, creeks, and streams are looking better than they have in decades.
- Thank you to all the landowners who have signed on to this important work and to those folks working to clean up their river bottom lands! Without you this project would not have happened.
- Kudos and appreciation to La Veta United Methodist and our two guest UMCOR sawyers!
- This project crew is indebted to all those working behind the scenes to support us, our equipment, and even our stomachs during these 3 (mostly) winter months. Thank you all very much.
March Update - Chipping Away at the Problem!
La Veta Site #1
- This project site is in the final stage of clearing/snagging. Several large cottonwoods are marked to be removed from the channel banks as the river bank is already eroded from underneath them.
- To date, roughly 45,000 cu yds of biomass have been removed at this site. Several cords of fuelwood have been removed and many more will be produced when larger cottonwoods are felled.
- As river flows rise, debris washed down from upstream is removed and processed. This is an important activity that will need to occur on a regular basis.
Walsenburg Site #1
- To date, work has been completed along roughly 2000 ft of channel thick with groves of Russian Olive trees and Tamarisk. The Americorps team so far has hauled and piled roughly 4500 cu yds of dead and down wood from the floodplain. About 15,000 cu yds of R. Olive and Tamarisk has been cut from the channel sides and chipped. Logs, trash, and branches have also been removed from the river bottom.
- Team Rubicon has completed their Recon visit and will be here with a sawyer crew in early April.
- Huerfano County greatly appreciates the sawyer work from Frank & Joe of UAC.
- Thank you to all the landowners who have signed on to this important work and to those folks working to clean up their river bottom lands! The stories of older floods and clearing work really help too!
February Update - It's Not a Beaver Dam!
La Veta Site #1
- Roughly 3700 linear feet of river channel has been cleared and snagged on La Veta Site 1. Some portions of the reach remain under snow drifts for now. A lot of additional snag removal work was completed in the channel bottom during the last 2 weeks as Walsenburg diverted most or all water out of the river. Removal of these previously submerged and or frozen snags will significantly help keep more water in the current channel.
- To date, roughly 5000 cu yds of biomass have been cut, hauled, piled and burned at this site. Roughly 7000 additional cu yds are piled to be burned after the latest snowstorm.
Walsenburg Site #1
Work began at Walsenburg Site #1 on to February 4, 2019 with County sawyers. As of the 19th work has been completed along roughly 550 feet of channel thick with groves of Russian Olive trees and some Tamarisk. The Americorps team so far is hauled and fpled roughly fifteen hundred cubic yards of dead and down wood from the floodplain. About four thousand cubic yards Russian olive has also been cut from the channel sides and chipped. Logs, trash, and branches have also been removed from the river bottom.