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Monsoon rains hammer La Plata County roads; crews say they’re keeping up

Heavy rainfall has caused erosion, flooding and debris flows
Heavy rain Tuesday night washed out a culvert on Yellow Brick Road near Durango-La Plata County Airport. Crews expect to have the road reopened on Saturday. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The heaviest monsoon in years has kept county road crews busy dealing with erosion, debris flows and flooding on 431 miles of gravel roads.

Despite the heavy rains, La Plata County Public Works Director Jim Davis anticipates his annual road maintenance budget should keep up with repair work without a need for supplemental money.

That rosy assessment assumes the future holds no more major events like Tuesday’s monsoonal storm that washed out a culvert on County Road 309A and damaged other county roads around Durango-La Plata County Airport, Davis said.

The goal is to have County Road 309A reopened by Saturday.

“If I had a magic ball and could read what the weather was going to do for the next month, I could say for sure, but we do have overtime and an overtime budget that we can use on emergency repairs,” Davis said.

But as of Tuesday, Davis said the annual appropriated road maintenance funding should be sufficient to handle what the monsoon season has thrown at the almost 40 members of county road crews assigned to maintenance.

Besides work on county roads 309, 309A and 310, monsoonal rains have brought three different debris flows from the June 2020 East Canyon Fire burn scar onto Cherry Creek Road (County Road 105) in the far western part of the county.

Mudslides and debris flows have also hit La Posta Road (County Road 213), south of Durango.

“Anytime we get a significant rain out there, there’s a potential for a flooding event and a need to deal with debris flows,” Davis said. “It accelerates the degradation of the gravel, so there is a cost, but we’re pretty proficient and well-equipped to maintain county roads.”

County roads near the 416 Fire burn scar have not yet been impacted by the heavy monsoonal rains, Davis said.

“I think a lot of the mitigation work for the 416 Fire is paying off,” he said.

It’s been almost 20 years since the Missionary Ridge Fire, and Davis said subsequent regrowth makes its burn scar less of a concern.


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