Resident Expresses Concern over Possible Springtime Bitter Creek Flooding

Resident Expresses Concern over Possible Springtime Bitter Creek Flooding

Rock Springs resident Tom Gagnon speaks to the Rock Springs City Council about the potential for spring flooding. City of Rock Springs YouTube photo

ROCK SPRINGS — Due to the amount of snow accumulated this winter, a Rock Springs resident is extremely concerned about the potential for springtime flooding from the Bitter Creek water shed area.

During the Rock Springs City Council meeting last night, Tom Gagnon, who lives in the Lowell subdivision on the east side of Rock Springs, spoke to the Council about the potential for flooding this spring.

Gagnon said he seems to recall that in the last three or four years Rock Springs has had at least two floods in downtown and those have not come out of Bitter Creek, but Horse Gulch, which is 13 square miles of water shed south of Rock Springs. Bitter Creek’s water shed area is 2,400 square miles above Rock Springs, according to Gagnon. The Bitter Creek watershed is a 184 times bigger than Horse Gulch that created pretty impressive flooding.

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Gagnon said that back in the 1970s the entire Lowell subdivision was under water due to flooding and nothing has been done since then to prevent flooding from happening again.

“Actually, about 40 percent of Rock Springs is in the Bitter Creek flood zone,” Gagnon said.

Gagnon is concerned about the potential for flooding anytime between now and the end of April due to the increase in snow. From the websites he’s looked at the snowpack in the watershed area is in excess of 130 percent of an average snowpack.

“All of that water when it melts from 2,400 square miles has got to funnel right through Rock Springs,” Gagnon said.

Gagnon is concerned about the amount of debris in the creek, including Russian Olive trees, which can create a dam. This could cause the water to run into the streets. The worst spot he’s discovered is on 9th Street, which has a lot of growth in there that will not allow for water to move through.

“I’ve brought this up years ago and nothing has been done about the vegetation that is growing right next to the creek in what I call the flood way,” Gagnon said.

He said there are things that can be done in the short-term and long-term and suggested the city seek volunteers to help remove some of the 3 to 4 inch in circumference debris from the Bitter Creek flood way area.

“It has to be done in the next couple of weeks,” Gagnon said.

As for a long-term solution, he suggested allowing beavers to build little dams throughout the Bitter Creek area outside of town to help naturally slow down the water flow.

Mayor Max Mickelson said he recently learned that the Bitter Creek water shed area is the largest water shed west of the Mississippi and a tremendous amount of water that goes through there. “I think it’s clear to any rational person that the actions of the U.P. in moving that for coal mining has directly contributed to the pickle that we’re in,” Mickelson said.

“I do have a lot of concern in the immediate when I look at all of the snow that’s out there and I very much appreciate the suggestion of volunteers,” Mickelson said. “I think all to often the solution is someone from the government should go up and do it for me and that doesn’t help when your house and business is flooding.”

Mickelson said the city is already looking at what it can do should a warm spring occur and all the snow melts at once.   

Other Business

The Council approved a request from the Rock Springs Fire Department to apply for a $2.8 million Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant through FEMA’s hiring program to pay for nine firefighters.

Council also approved the RSFD’s request to purchase a three-year, one-time payment plan from Stryker for the maintenance of their LifePak-15 defibrillators and LUCAS CPR devices.