RAPID Assessment of Extreme Reservoir Sedimentation Resulting from the September 2013 Flood, North St. Vrain Creek, CO

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 11:20 AM
Sara L Rathburn1, Brandon J McElroy2, Ellen Wohl1, Nicholas A Sutfin1 and Ken Huson3, (1)Colorado State Univ, Geosciences, Fort Collins, CO, United States, (2)University of Wyoming, Geology and Geophysics, Laramie, WY, United States, (3)City of Longmont, Utilities Service Center, Longmont, CO, United States
During mid-September 2013, approximately 360 mm of precipitation fell in the headwaters of the North St. Vrain drainage basin, Front Range, CO. Debris flows on steep hillslopes and extensive flooding along North St. Vrain Creek resulted in extreme sedimentation within Ralph Price Reservoir, municipal water supply for the City of Longmont. The event allows comparison of historical sedimentation with that of an unusually large flood because 1) no reservoir flushing has been conducted since dam construction, 2) reservoir stratigraphy chronicles uninterrupted delta deposition, and 3) this is the only on-channel reservoir with unimpeded, natural sediment flux from the Continental Divide to the mountain front in a basin with no significant historic flow modifications and land use impacts. Assessing the flood-related sedimentation prior to any dredging activities included coring the reservoir delta, a bathymetric survey of the delta, resistivity and ground penetrating radar surveys of the subaerial inlet deposit, and surveying tributary deposits. Over the 44-year life of the reservoir, two-thirds of the delta sedimentation is attributed to extreme discharges from the September 2013 storm. Total storm-derived reservoir sedimentation is approximately 275,000 m3, with 81% of that within the gravel-dominated inlet and 17% in the delta. Volumes of deposition within reservoir tributary inlets is negatively correlated with contributing area, possibly due to a lack of storage in these small basins (1-5 km2). Flood-related reservoir sedimentation will be compared to other research quantifying volumes from slope failures evident on post-storm lidar. Analysis of delta core samples will quantify organic carbon flux associated with the extreme discharge and develop a chronology of flood and fire disturbances for North St. Vrain basin. Applications of similar techniques are planned for two older Front Range reservoirs affected by the September flooding to fill knowledge gaps about event-based sedimentation and to expand these rates to annual and decadal scales.