The council awarded an engineering contract at the meeting to study replacing the Skyrocket Creek diversion, which washed away in 2006, and “in a major flood event” could potentially flood out the pool, said city manager Patrick Rondinelli. The contract was awarded to McMillan Engineering of Ridgway.
A second engineering contract was given to Monadock Mineral Services of Ouray to determine work needed to replace the hot water line from Box Canyon that feeds the Ouray pool.
The current line leaks, Rondinelli said, losing water and heat along the way. The section of line to be replaced runs from Box Canyon to Third Avenue and Oak streets, he said.
“Where the source is, are significant holes in the line from scree debris, and with the river channel, it undercuts the line and (the line) is actually hanging in the air,” he said. “We’re in jeopardy of closing that line, which would have significant impact on the pool.”
Not only will the hot water line be replaced, but other sources of hot water from the many geothermal springs around Ouray will be located, not only for the pool but to increase the likelihood of producing geothermal energy.
Monadock will partner with West Water Engineering to complete the study, Rondinelli said.
“We are really excited to move forward, and in the best-case scenario we hope to have the engineering done by mid-summer and start construction this fall during low river season,” he said. “We still have to go out and get funding for construction and it will probably be next year before the real work is done.”
The Skyrocket diversion project will protect both the pool and U.S. Highway 550 from potential flood damage in case of a major flood event like the flood of 1929. That event “flooded the power plant, took the railroad section house and almost got the depot. Bridges and roads vanished and the Hot Springs Pool filled with mud, rock and debris…,” according to A Brief History of Ouray by historian Doris Gregory.
The Skyrocket diversion has not been replaced since it washed away in 2006, Rondinelli said, and the channel of the creek still wants to run north – to the pool.
“If we do have a significant event, there is nothing to stop it from coming back to its historical drainage, especially if it became plugged,” he said. “Everything would go toward the pool, and we’re just lucky that it hasn’t happened.”
Funding for both engineering studies comes from a $60,000 grant from the state Department of Local Affairs and $40,000 in matching funds from the city, Rondinelli said.
Both projects are vital to Ouray, Rondinelli said. Flooding from Skyrocket Creek could damage the pool in a major flood, he said, and could wash away sections of U.S. Highway 550, the major evacuation route from Ouray to the north.
Keeping the city-owned hot springs pool hot is important because the pool attracts visitors and contributes about $1 million annually to the city’s parks system, Rondinelli said.
“It’s a major tourist attraction, one of the many assets we have along with the beauty of the terrain, the Jeep trails and hiking trails, restaurants and shops, and obviously is a major draw that helps bring people here,” he said.