MANITOU SPRINGS - When Rosann Bowen moved into her home in a canyon just above Manitou Springs, she called it her "piece of heaven." But, after the Waldo Canyon fire it's become more like a problem from hell.
"It looked like the Arkansas River coming through here," Bowen said.
Her peaceful setting is now interrupted by the sounds of bull dozers and diggers. The United States Forest Service has been working with El Paso County and the Colorado Department of Transportation to create ways to slow down the rain fall pouring through the burn scar.
"Everything they do here affects downstream," Bowen said.
Everything workers are trying are aimed at protecting the areas which have been devastated by floods several times over the past few weeks.
"Fifteen hundred acres of watershed and it all drains right down into Manitou Springs," Dana Butler, USFS Hydrologist, said.
Butler has been working the construction of a series of sediment detention basins built from the top of the Waldo Canyon burn scar down to Highway 24. Each pit is about 100 feet long and at least 8 feet deep. Butler says each basin can hold about 1,000 truckloads of water and debris.
"We're digging depressions in the channel here that will actually capture some sediment and capture some debris. What we're trying to do is slow down the water, trying to spread it out and we're trying to lessen the destruction downstream."
Last Friday, so much rain fell that Highway 24 looked like a river sweeping away cars from the roadway. A 53-year-old man was killed in the deluge. Butler says as horrific as that was, it could've been much worse. He says the basin system worked, but there's only so much he and his crews can do.
"Everything that we're standing on would've been on Highway 24," Butler said in front of a basin filled to the brim.
El Paso County has partnered with the CDOT and the federal government to find funds for these projects which take place in a closed off section of the Waldo Canyon burn area. The plans also include the construction of log walls to slow down water flow and the use of specialized seeds to regenerate the undergrowth as quickly as possible. Butler says restored eco-system through the burned zone will create the natural way to distribute and slow down all the rain fall.
"This vegetation is cooperating with us," Butler said. "That's what we need for the watershed to restore."
Bowen says even though it's noisy, she's happy to see the government trying to restore her little "piece of heaven."
"Everything they've done has worked so far," Bowen said. "I feel more protected with the work that they've done."
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