The Saratoga Sun -

Feel the berm


A blown head gate on Silver Spur property has required an emergency mitigation response. A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter has been on hand to help out the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security (WOHS) and Wyoming National Guard as well as responders from the Saratoga Volunteer Fire Department and Swiftwater Rescue.

According to Guy Cameron, WOHS Director, the head gate blew out last Friday and WOHS and Wyoming National Guard have been working on it since. The project involves the movement of sandbags to the berm in question, where problems with erosion have led to serious concerns about the projected movement of the river in high water, Cameron explained.

"You have that issue that is sending a lot of water down through Boozer Creek, and it ends up coming out there at the North Platte River just behind the (Saratoga Resort and Spa)," said Cameron. The channel's proximity to the Platte led to a need for mitigation, which has been underway with the help of 81 personnel from the Wyoming National Guard.

During this project, responders have kept in mind the erosion of the bank as well as the impending snowmelt that will flow through the river over the next few weeks, Cameron added.

According to Cameron, if a breach were to occur at that berm, the North Platte River would re-channel itself down Boozer Creek, bringing with it debris and risks to life-safety. "Our whole goal here is to mitigate a potential risk. We've also had some erosion that is taking place on the riverside, and so that is also a potential risk for failure for this particular berm, which could redirect the river into Saratoga," said Cameron, adding that such an outcome is just what they want to avoid.

Wyoming National Guard troops have been here since Tuesday responding to a separate issue, which has been potential flood mitigation in town. Sandbags have been piled in town up to 10 feet, which is above the expected highest flow, said Cameron.

According to John Zeiger, Carbon County Emergency Management Coordinator, the work in town is mostly complete, but the berm incident will likely extend their stay. The troops are expected to be on their way out by Thursday, though the smoke busters, a crew of inmates, will stay around for longer.

Though the town-based mitigation is nearing its end, Saratoga may not have their head above water yet. John Fahey, with the National Weather Service, speculates that the peak time for the North Platte River will occur in mid-June, and there is predicted to be some rain and high-altitude snow this week, Zeiger said.

According to Zeiger, predictions are indicating a steady nine-foot flow, which aligns with work already done by the responders. If it appears flow will reach the 10-foot mark, troops could potentially be called back. For now, the local incident assist team will re-evaluate after the weekend to see if more action will need to be taken.

"It's going to be Mother Nature deciding what she wants to do to us," said Zeiger.


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