Work to make the Durango Whitewater Park safer may not be completed this spring because of rising runoff in the Animas River.
The city started construction in late February to widen and lower some of the structures and make them less powerful. The work was scheduled to be finished Wednesday, but the project timeline is now dependent on colder weather next week, Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz said.
When the contractor wraps up on Friday, work to widen rapids on the river left, near Santa Rita Park, will be finished, Parks Manager Scott McClain said.
If it is cold next week, the contractor may be able to use a track hoe on river right, or the Dog Park side, to finish the project, Metz said.
If the contractor is not able to finish, the city will observe the river to see if more work is necessary, and if it is, crews will return in the fall, she said.
“We certainly are wanting to get this issue dealt with,” she said.
The project was scheduled for spring 2016, but the city did not receive acceptable bids, so it was delayed.
The city expects to pay $70,000 for the maintenance. Staff had budgeted $100,000 for the project, she said.
Thus far, the work to lower and widen rapids closer to Santa Rita Park is a success, Metz said.
Work on Corner Pocket and Ponderosa rapids will give commercial rafting companies more room to go around Corner Pocket, said John Brennan, an Animas River Task Force member.
Additional time to observe the river over the summer could be a blessing as well, he said.
“Maybe we don’t need to do that much to river right,” he said.
Corner Pocket was too narrow, and its power has been a problem for many rafters and kayakers.
It also tends to push boaters into more shallow water on the right when the river is at moderate flows, between 1,500 and 4,000 cubic feet per second, said Matt Gerhardt, general manager of 4Corners River Sports.
He would like to see the right side of Corner Pocket addressed.
“It’s frustrating when Corner Pocket used to be the best feature on the river – now it’s a feature everybody avoids all together at anything over 1,500 cfs,” he said.
It’s too soon to say what difference boaters will notice in the park as a whole, he said.
It’s not unusual for whitewater parks to require maintenance, and the city’s permit with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allows this work, Metz said.
“We don’t like getting into the river unless we have to,” she said.
If the city deems work near the dog park is necessary and completes it, that should be the last construction needed for a while, she said.
When the park was constructed in 2014, rocks were grouted in place to minimize the amount of time spent in the river, she said.
Prior to construction, the rocks moved significantly because of the high flows and debris that flowed down the river.