The Galena Fire Causes Concern for Greeley’s Water Supply

Greeley water officials are once again concerned about the effects of wildfire on the city’s water supply.  The Galena fire that started on March 15, 2013 burned 1,348 acres of land west of Fort Collins before full containment five days later.  This fire was reminiscent of the nearby High Park fire of last June that burned 87,284 acres, destroyed 259 homes, killed one person, and cost millions of dollars to clean the Poudre River.

The major concern for Greeley, located about 50 miles away from the Galena fire, centers not on the damage from the blaze itself, but the effects of runoff washing ash and fire debris into the city’s water supply.  The fire burned parts of Lory State park that drain into the Horsetooth Reservoir; a reservoir that provides up to 35% of Greeley’s water supply.

Northern Water, a public agency established to build the Colorado-Big Thompson Project and provide supplemental water to northeastern Colorado, immediately stepped in after the Galena fire to mitigate the effects on the area’s water.  Northern Water installed ten debris booms throughout Lory State Park at areas that drain into the Horsetooth Reservoir.  The debris booms consisted of mesh bags filled with wood chips to filter the water and catch any ash and debris before reaching the reservoir.  Northern Water used similar debris booms during the June High Park fire cleanup.

Because the forecast predicated rain only a few days after the fire, Northern Water wanted to act quickly and place appropriate mechanisms before any significant runoff occurred.  Northern Water completed the debris boom installation in two days and spent $15,000 on the project.

The wildfire increase of recent years, combined with the extremely early-season Galena fire, causes concern for Greeley water officials.  Accordingly, the city began exploring new ways to reduce fire damage and seeks partnering with the United States Forest Service to achieve this goal.

While the Galena fire’s effects on Greeley’s water supply still remain unclear, the fire’s smaller acreage and reduced devastation suggest that the impacts on the water supply and quality will not be as great as after the High Park fire.


Sources:

Fire Burning Northwest of Fort Collins, The Greeley Tribune, Mar. 15, 2013, http://www.greeleytribune.com/news/crime/5570876-113/fire-homes-friday-reservoir.

Alex Ruiz, Galena Fire Has Greeley Water Officials Concerned, Northern Colorado 5, March 19, 2013, http://www.noco5.com/story/21694538/greeley-water-supply-hit.

John Orr, Galena fire: Northern Water installs debris booms to mitigate effects to Horsetooth Reservoir #codrought, Coyote Gulch (Mar. 24, 2013, 7:24 AM), http://coyotegulch.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/galena-fire-northern-water-installs-debris-booms-to-mitigate-effects-to-horsetooth-reservoir-codrought/.

Galena Fire in Larimer County 100 Percent Contained at 1,348 Acres, Denver Post, Mar. 20, 2013, http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_22833790/galena-fire-larimer-county-100-percent-contained-at.

Northern Water, http://www.northernwater.org (last visited Sept. 4, 2013).