Clearing the bar

The town of Saratoga gets permits in line for December project to remove rock bar in river south of HWY 130 bridge


A gravel bar in the Platte River going through town has been put on notice. At an Oct. 18 meeting of the Saratoga Town Council, director of public works Jon Winter announced details of a long-awaited gravel-clearing operation that’s been slated for the first part of December. About 10 members of the public were in attendance to hear the news.

“The goal is to get rid of the big bar (immediately south of the HWY 130 bridge). That’s the primary goal,” Winter said in an Oct. 24 interview with the Sun. According to Winter, the town hopes to work on the project concurrently with riverfront property owners Jim and Corinne Miller, who are aiming to complete a bank-stabilization project in the same part of the river during early December.

“(The Millers’) bank has eroded to the point where they’re going to lose more trees and (the river’s) right up to their patio,” Winter said.

Corinne Miller said she and her husband had budgeted tens of thousands of dollars for their project, and “we think it’s important for landowners (along the river) to take responsibility for the river restoration.” Miller said she and her husband had held several meetings with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials (USACE), Winter and Saratoga Mayor Ed Glode while trying to coordinate their private endeavor with the town’s operation.

The property owners applied for a Nationwide Permit #13 from the (USACE) for their bank stabilization project. When Winter approached the USACE for a Nationwide Permit #33 for the gravel bar work, he learned of the Millers’ bank stabilization efforts and thought the ventures would dovetail nicely.

The Nationwide Permit #13 grants the Millers’ permission to shore up their bank with boulders and fill, whereas the Nationwide Permit #33 applied for by the town calls for the construction of a temporary dam while the bar gets cleared, Winter explained. He said the dam would be made of sandbags strategically placed between the south end of the gravel bar and the Platte’s east bank. The dam will keep sediment stirred up during the bar-removal from flowing downstream.

Doing the work with a dam in place, “is obviously a lot better for water quality because you’re not churning up sediment as you drive through there,” Winter said. Earlier in the year, the town was reprimanded by the USACE after driving heavy equipment through a shallow slough of the river during rainbow trout spawning season.

The current work has been scheduled to be minimally disruptive to trout spawning cycles, and has been reviewed and approved by the USACE. Winter said that the town has yet to receive a 401 Water Quality Certification from the Environmental Protection Agency for the project. A Water Turbidity Notice “has to go to publication and be open for public comment (for 30 days),” Winter said of the requirements for the 401 Certification. Saratoga is in the process of publishing that notice, he continued.

Though the regulatory hurdles appear to have been largely cleared, Winter said some logistical questions about the execution of the project remain. “Now (that we have a USACE permit) we need to get with an engineer and the experts with the equipment,” he said, declining to speculate about how much the total price tag will be.

That will depend on how much equipment will be required, and how long that equipment will need to be rented by the town. Winter estimated that the town would need between one and four 20-30 ton haul trucks, in addition to an excavator. “The difference in cost between one truck and four trucks is big,” Winter noted.

“We’re hoping to get (the bar cleared) in a week or two. That would be a goal,” Winter said, though the timeframe stipulated in the permit is two to four weeks to allow a margin of error. “We want to get it done as quick as possible. In-and-out, “ he continued, saying “we don’t want the (rented) excavator just sitting there.”

According to what Winter’s been told, the last time river-work on this scale was done in Saratoga was the late 1990s. The director of public works added a cautionary note to his description of the project, however.

“It’s a maintenance activity. I’m not saying that we remove this (one bar) and all of a sudden all our (flooding and erosion) issues go away,” Winter said. The town project has more modest goals of allowing for safer access under the HWY 130 bridge and “the idea is the water will be flowing more in the central path of the channel instead of bouncing back and forth as it comes down that section of the river,” Winter said.

The clearing of this gravel bar could narrow the channel in one segment of the Platte and decrease the degree to which some properties get inundated during high water. “There’s a lot of eroding bank north and south of the town for miles and miles (though),” Winter said.


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