Water, telecommunication issues hit Pagosa Country


Update, Friday at 3:45 p.m.:

Update, Wednesday at 3:45 p.m.: Hinsdale County reports that Taylor Lane will be closed indefinitely to through traffic from the intersection at the Piedra Bridge to the Sportsman Supply due to road damage from culvert flooding. Local traffic is encouraged to use the road from the Sportsman Supply for access.

By Randi Pierce | Staff Writer

Multiple issues affected Pagosa Country this week, including flooding and telecommunications issues.

This week’s warmer temperatures have led to runoff and flooding issues across Pagosa Country.

The San Juan River peaked at 1,700 cubic feet per second (cfs) at midnight and 12:45 a.m. on April 12 — above the medians for those times that are near 400 cfs.

Colo. 151 closed, other roads affected

On Tuesday afternoon, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) closed Colo. 151, with the agency announcing Wednesday motorists should expect a long-term closure.

According to a Tuesday email from Southwest Colorado Communications Manager Lisa Schwantes, the road was closed just south of Chimney Rock National Monument, from mile point 28 to 29, due to flooding at the location of a culvert.

She notes that, at the time, CDOT crews were on-site “attempting to mitigate and redirect the excessive water from flooding the highway.”

A Wednesday afternoon update from Communications Specialist Adair Christensen notes that CDOT engineers and maintenance staff “assessed what they could of the road damage” and CDOT will not be able to further assess road damage or begin repairs until the flow of the creek adjacent to the highway recedes.

“Strong water flow along with natural debris build up is causing erosion and a high potential for sinkholes to form underneath the highway,” the update states.

The update also notes, “Motorists should expect a long term closure to be in place on CO 151 through the end of May. CDOT encourages travelers to seek alternate routes and frequently check COtrip.org for the most current road conditions.”

The Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) reported on social media late Tuesday that Colo. 151 is allowing only emergency vehicles to pass through the affected area.

The ACSO also reported that flooding is occurring in multiple areas of Archuleta County, including North Pagosa Boulevard in several areas from Hills Circle south to the separated portion of North Pagosa Boulevard.

Photo courtesy Nicole Kleckner Hoover
A Jeep sits in water along Piedra Road north of Turkey Springs. Recreational travel in the area is currently discouraged due to flooding.

Also on Tuesday, the San Juan National Forest discouraged recreational travel on Piedra Road north of Turkey Springs (Forest Service Road 629).

A post on the forest’s Facebook page notes, “At least three separate areas past this point are flooded. Residents will be allowed access; however short-term delays are expected as crews work to unplug culverts. When driving on the road vehicles are advised stay within the boundary of the cones. Road crews will be on-site working on road, but currently the flooded areas are difficult to navigate. Please avoid the shoulders of the road as there are steep drop offs in excess of 5 feet. A thank you to Archuleta County for assisting with this effort.”

“The Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind you to use extreme caution when driving on a roadway that has water flowing over the road. You should avoid driving through water over the road if you can. Please use an alternate route,” the ACSO Facebook page reads.

SUN photo/Terri House
Snowmelt in recent days has pushed San Juan River flows above median levels.

Sewer backup issues reported

Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Engineer and Manager Justin Ramsey explains in a Tuesday email that sewer backup issues are taking place in the Hatcher area.

He notes that, as of that afternoon, no sewage had backed up into homes, but that some customers have reported slow drains.

“There is still a substantial amount of snow in the Hatcher area so I would assume we will be fighting this for another week,” he wrote.

On Wednesday morning, Ramsey noted there is no ponded contaminated water but that water from the manhole overflow on Pebble Circle is “getting into Hatcher Reservoir.”  

He also reminds PAWSD customers that connecting sump pumps to the sewer system is illegal.

Telecommunications issues

Pagosa Country’s Wednesday telecommunications issues were caused by a guard rail installation that damaged fiber, according to Eric Hittle of the Archuleta County Broadband Services Management Office.

According to a statement by CenturyLink, “Field Operations tested the fiber and detected a fault 8.7 miles from the site. A technician traversed the route and identified a fault on the fiber cable caused by a guardrail installation. Damage assessment is in progress.”

Hittle explained mid-day Wednesday the damage took place closer to Durango and there was no estimated time for full repair at that time.

Hittle reported Visionary customers have limited service on a back-up system, but added the back-up system is saturated. Internet users are asked to avoid using video and other services until service is fully restored.

Pagosa Springs Medical Center announced that it cannot receive incoming phone calls currently, adding, “If you have an emergency, you can still dial 9-1-1. Our emergency department is open 24/7 for emergent needs.”

The ACSO reported via an emergency alert Wednesday that 911 calls are being rerouted through Durango dispatch.