February 1, 2023 |
A small, man-made tributary on the North Platte River south of Saratoga remains a danger to the town during high water. The tributary is known as Boozer Creek. The Saratoga-Encampment-Rawlins Conservation District has a plan to combat the threat the man-made channel poses, but a lack of government funding has stalled the mitigation project.
The SER Conservation District Manager Joe Parsons said the offshoot of the river near the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort golf course, has the potential to flood the entire south-east side of town.
Pictured above: Screen shot from U.S. Army Corp of Engineers document from in 2016.
Flood waters could reach town once they rush past the abandoned railroad bridge over the North Platte at the golf course.
In 2011, the Army National Guard was deployed to Saratoga to combat extensive flooding along the North Platte River. Using sandbags, the troops stopped the water from overflowing. Afterwards, a series of high-water years caused the sandbags to fail and the banks along the headgates of Boozers Creek to erode. Parsons said the Conservation District plans to use natural barriers to protect the area.
The Conservation District’s long-term plan is to eliminate the threat by rerouting that stretch of the North Platte River. Parsons said straightening the river would mitigate flooding and still allow the creek to appear natural.
Moving a river is no small feat. Parsons estimates the project will cost around $1.2 million. He said he has unsuccessfully applied for FEMA grants in the past. The SER district manager said the government recently created another funding opportunity.
Using the planning grant, Parsons was able to secure government funding. He said the Conservation District has hired an engineering firm capable of completing the project and handling the red tape.
The FEMA grant would only cover $900,000 of the total cost to alter the flow of the creek. Parsons said the Conservation District needs to find the remaining $300,000.
Parsons said he is confident he will be able to raise the 25 percent grant match through private funding sources.
The SER district manager said he should know by the end of 2023 if the federal funding has been approved. Parsons said the project could begin as soon as the late summer of next year.
With the project over a year out at the earliest, flooding is still a concern this spring. Snowpack is above 130 percent above mean more winter to come. A rainy spring could compound run-off concerns. Parsons said another concern is the Mullen Burn scar, which could contribute a bigger flood risk downstream in Saratoga.
Parsons said rivers move over time. His agency’s plan is to give mother nature a hand by helping the waterway move in a way that doesn’t put the town in danger.