The city of Durango has completed work on the Whitewater Park intended to fix dangerous human-made rapids, and now it’s time to see what high water brings during spring runoff.
“That’s kind of the game with all of this,” said Jarrod Biggs, assistant utilities director. “We execute the plan, and then we have to watch what Mother Nature does for us, or to us.”
Tweaks have been made to the Whitewater Park, which flows along Santa Rita Park, as early as the 1980s. But a full-scale $2.6 million project to enhance the park and build a series of rapids began in 2014 and was finished in 2018.
In summer 2016, the city’s Utilities Department spent $1 million on a separate project just upstream of the Whitewater Park to build several new features to divert more water into the city’s water intake for municipal use.
It’s these features some people in the boating community say pose too great a risk for running the Animas River at high water.
In early March, the city started an estimated $113,000 project to make the rapid safer, work that was recently completed, Biggs said.
“I think it went pretty well,” he said. “Now, it’s just a matter of watching how it reacts to high water.”
The city has said a permanent solution, which would grout the bottom of the river to hold the boulders in place, has been rejected by the Army Corps of Engineers and Colorado Parks, citing concerns to wildlife.
As a result, it’s likely the city will have to get in the river every few years to tweak the features so they remain safe.
“At the end of the day, we’re trying to serve two functions,” Biggs said. “One: make sure water gets into the intake. Two: make sure its passable. And there can be significant tension between those two goals, but we’re hopeful we found a happy medium.”