I-70 Glenwood Canyon Update: Tuesday, August 24

August 24, 2021 - Northwestern Colorado

CDOT crews had another safe and productive day on Monday with no accidents or injuries reported. The weather did start with some light showers close to the burn scars, but they were small and fast moving, and raised no concern from the National Weather Service.  Luckily the storms cleared out by afternoon and we had good weather the rest of the day. Crews removed 21 loads of material and hauled 38 super sacks. This update includes a river operations update (see below). Work continues to include flight operations by Xcel Energy and Holy Cross Energy, so motorists should anticipate limited traffic holds so that crews can safely conduct that work. Note: Photos of work over the weekend are available in the media kit, which continues to be updated.

Maintenance Update

Crews from Section 5 (Denver) and Section 4 (Pueblo) mobilized home after a very helpful and productive stay. Crews with Section 2 (Grand Junction and Glenwood Canyon area) conducted work with an excavator at Mile Point (MP) 120.2 westbound pulling mud and debris from behind the wall on the north side of Interstate 70. Crews hauled out 21 loads. Crews also hauled 38 super sacks from the pit on Highway 82 to a storage location at No Name. Crews also worked on servicing equipment, both rental and CDOT equipment. Today, crews will resume work at MP 120.2 -120.8 westbound and MP 127 - 129 westbound on the east end. Crews will also work with engineering teams as the contractor replaces Triton portable barriers with concrete barriers, so that the portable barriers can be removed and returned to CDOT facilities.

Due to ongoing work by Xcel Energy and Holy Cross Energy, there was a 30 minute period when there was no power from either end of Glenwood Canyon. Hanging Lake Tunnel was able to continue operating with an emergency generator.

Xcel Energy and Holy Cross Energy will continue to conduct flight operations for repairs, which will require traffic holds.

Engineering Update

Contractor partner Lawrence Construction began mobilizing to the jobsite on Monday. Lawrence will be taking over traffic control at MP 123.5 (Blue Gulch) over the next several days, replacing CDOT maintenance barriers with their own. Now that Blue Gulch stability has been confirmed, instruments will be moved from Blue Gulch to Devil’s Hole which requires satellite connectivity, so it will be a little while before that is online. Federal Highway Administration teams will visit on Tuesday.

Flash Flood Watch I-70 Protocol

Maintenance crews will be stationed at the two closure points along I-70 at mile point 133 (Dotsero) and MP 116 (Glenwood Springs). This allows for a quick closure of the interstate if weather worsens. There will be a single lane closure on eastbound I-70 at MP 116 which, again, allows the opportunity to quickly close the interstate as soon as a Flash Flood Warning is issued.

Flash Flood Warning I-70 Protocol

In the event that a Flash Flood Warning is issued, maintenance crews at the two closure points will close the interstate. The Colorado State Patrol will sweep the area to ensure there are no motorists or members of the public in the area. Crews will continue to monitor the mudslide area. Motorists should be prepared for an extended closure should there be another mud slide or slide materials blocking the roadway that will need to be cleared before reopening. Safety is CDOT’s and CSP’s number one priority and the agencies will not reopen the interstate until it is safe to do so

In the Event of an I-70 Closure

Digital message boards will display the closure points and the recommended detour. The detour will be the same as when the canyon originally closed. CDOT will post messaging on both Facebook and Twitter and will send information to stakeholders if we anticipate an extended closure. Motorists are encouraged to check COtrip.org and the weather forecast before driving through the canyon

Colorado State Emergency Operations Center River Operations Update 

The Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is leading the efforts related to recovery of the river. DHSEM is coordinating the following efforts in Glenwood Canyon through activation of the State Recovery Task Force:

  • Determining the best course of action in regard to river reconfiguration 

  • Establishing responsibility for activities within the river and surrounding lands with the U.S. Forest Service, the Federal Transportation Administration and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. 

  • Examining broadband infrastructure in the canyon. No immediate hazards or weaknesses have been identified.

  • Recommending an official disaster declaration from the U.S. Small Business Administration for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program after damage assessments show impacts to businesses.

  • Monitoring river flow through the canyon to determine if the Colorado Division of Water Resources can coordinate water rights to regulate river operations with the goal of manipulating flows in order to break up debris and move downstream.

  • A Preliminary Damage Assessment with State agencies, USFS and USACE occurred August 19 and 20, which confirmed the need for the Joint Preliminary Damage Assessments (JPDA) with FEMA. The  JPDA is necessary for a possible Stafford Act request from the Governor to the President. The JPDA is tentatively scheduled for the week of August 30th.  

  • A multi-state federal agency team conducted technical damage assessments on six debris fans into the Colorado River in the Glenwood Canyon on August 20.  Experts from these agencies assessed fan depths and widths, river backflow depths, volume capacity and river reconfiguration.  Members of CDPS, CDOT, DNR, CGS, USFS and USACE participated.  

  • DHSEM is providing incident support in Glenwood Springs to the local jurisdictions, state agencies and federal partners involved in the response with a focus on:

    • Concerns about water quality / debris for water users

    • Economic impacts in tourism economies

    • Supply chain effect in multiple industries, including medical

    • Staffing effects

    • Need to prepare for future events

  • Pursuing federal funding for the response and recovery operations in Glenwood Canyon.