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Update at 4:25pm
The Grand Junction Police Department Bomb Squad was able to open the suspicious item using render safe techniques so bomb technicians could see inside. After examining it, the bomb technicians determined it was not an explosive device, and instead was likely a piece of equipment used by workers in the energy industry.
Thank you for your patience as the emergency personnel worked to ensure the safety of those driving through this area.
Below are several images of one of the bomb technicians investigating the item.
Update as of 3:45pm:
Both the eastbound and westbound lanes of I-70 near DeBeque are open again following the investigation of the suspicious item near DeBeque.
At approximately 11:30 this morning Colorado Department of Transportation crews were picking up trash for their Adopt a Highway program when they noticed a suspicious item on the bridge that goes over the Colorado River just east of DeBeque (approximately mile marker 62.8). The CDOT crew notified the Colorado State Patrol, which then requested the closure of I-70 in both directions as a safety precaution while they investigated. CSP also requested assistance from the Grand Junction Police Department Bomb Squad, which arrived on scene a short time later.
CSP set up the following detours:
Westbound: exit at mile marker 72 (west of Parachute) to US 6 to W 1/2 Rd, and eventually back to I-70
Eastbound: exit at mile marker 62 (DeBeque exit) to US 6 to W 1/2 Rd, and eventually back to I-70
Oversight for West Salt Creek landslide transitions to Mesa County Operations
On Friday, June 6, 2014, official oversight and command of the West Salt Creek landslide transitioned from Unified Command with Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and the US Forest Service to Operational Command by Mesa County Public Works. Peter Baier, Mesa County’s Deputy Administrator for Operations, has been appointed to oversee the ongoing activity and monitoring at the West Salt Creek landslide area.
With the change in operational command, officials are transitioning point of communication. From May 26 through June 6, 2014, the Mesa County Joint Information Center and Heather Benjamin, Mesa County Sheriff’s Office lead public information officer, coordinated the communications during the emergency response. Effective June 10, first point of communication will be Mesa County Administration, Victoria Patsantaras, lead public information officer.
Media updates will be provided weekly, or as may be required by conditions. Please see Mesa County’s news blog http://blog.mesacounty.us/ and Mesa County government social media pages: www.facebook.com/mesacounty, https://twitter.com/mesacountynews.
Additionally, information links relating to the landslide may be found at Mesa County government’s web page, http://www.mesacounty.us/West-Salt-Creek-Landslide/.
Mesa County thanks the many organizations and individuals who provided response and support to the West Salt Creek Landslide.
Specific thanks to:
Town of Collbran
Collbran Town Marshall
Plateau Valley Fire Department
United States Forest Service (USFS)
United States Geological Survey (USGS)
US Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento, CA
Mesa County Search and Rescue Corps
Mesa County Radio Amateur Communications Emergency Service
National Weather Service
City of Grand Junction – Police Department and Regional Communication Center (911)
Colorado Department of Public Safety
Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Northwest Incident Management Team
Colorado Division of Water Resources (CDWR)
Colorado National Guard – High Altitude Training Center
Colorado State Patrol
Colorado School of Mines
Bureau of Reclamation
Office of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper
State of Colorado Geologist
Mesa County Sheriff’s Office
Mesa County Emergency Management
Mesa County Health Department
Mesa County GIS
Mesa County Public Works
Mesa County / Colorado State University Tri-River Extension
For future media updates on the Landslide, please refer to Mesa County’s news blog http://blog.mesacounty.us/ and Mesa County government social media pages: www.facebook.com/mesacounty, https://twitter.com/mesacountynews.
Additionally, information links relating to the landslide may be found at Mesa County government’s web page, http://www.mesacounty.us/West-Salt-Creek-Landslide/.
**These are raw notes with little editing/correcting. We wanted to get them out as soon as possible.**
Collbran Town Hall Meeting, Thursday, June 5, 2014, started at 6:11pm
Welcome by Collbran Mayor Frank Jones, thanks everyone for coming out and we will continue to communicate with citizens on-going
Sheriff Hilkey gives a short tribute to the victims and thanks everyone for coming out tonight
Pete Baier, Director of Public Works/Mesa County
· Recap of event: slideshow of water in the sag pond
· First thing we did was send out a call to technical experts, and it was well received. Including the state office of emergency management
· Last town hall meeting we heard roughly 30 million cubic feet.
· Started off with field operations that stayed out of the area of the block (top portion). Experts started coming in, USGS, dam experts. “We are trying to out smart a mouse,” Sheriff Hilkey said about how to dissect this landslide.
· Mainly concerned with what is happening on top f the mountain with snow and water run off. It’s not easy terrain to get to it all. Time intensive.
· Average daily personnel in the field was 22 ppl. 32 people on our biggest day.
· Nobody here has played a jurisdictional game.
· 2 Cameras on-site, currently one camera is doing well. We are close to a solution for getting the second camera operational consistently.
· Purposing to put a 3rd satellite monitor inside the pond for monitoring by the Mesa County Emergency Manager. This would alert us if there is a significant change in pond water levels.
· GPD unit on block, camera on sugarloaf,
· Daily visual monitoring of the pond
· 2k ft elevation foot change from bottom of slide to above it.
· Weather station up there for evaluation if we get weather occurance
· Stream gauge in case there is a rise in water run, significant rise
Chuck Vale, Office of Emergency Management/State of Colorado
· Coordinating agency in disasters (and do pre-work)
· We work with MC OEM on a daily basis.
· Gov. has declared an emergency disaster, this allows us to move and use resources for what we need. That has been done.
· Ordered Verizon, cell on wheels (COW), it is on Mr. Allen’s property, just up the road from here.
· This is a very rural community and has had some data connection issues. They are on the site right now and have now started moving data, just tonight.
· 5 town agencies, 10 state agencies, 9 federal agencies, 16 county agencies, 25 private agencies helping, about 800 people supporting your community at all kinds of levels.
· Don’t get excited to see people leave, now that we have data collection in place, so of those ppl can go but will support as needed. Into the summer.
Jeff Coe, Senior Geologist/USGS
· Need to address 2 issues: slump block and pond
· Ongoing work by MC and USFS, installing GPS on block to monitor movement of block
· Cameras focused on pond for water levels and possible movement
· GPS receiver installed June 5, 2014.
· No seeps or water coming over the top of the pond
· Since monitoring equipment is now up, it will take time to gather data and analyze it. Will take time. Won’t have anything for a long time.
· Worst case scenario…will slide make it all the way to high school, NO; Collbran, NO; Plateau Creek, NO; intersection of east and west salt creek, maybe…depends on amount of debris. (Preliminary model run shown as visual)
· Visual leans toward worse case scenarios, which can be updated now that actual monitoring data will become available. This early prediction of worst case scenario over predicts the actuality of a second slide, rather than under predicts. Worst case scenario is 100 mill cubic ft of slide material.
· More probable, but still unlikely, are damage up stream with far less volume of earth material.
· GPS equipment will show if the slide is moving in any manner.
· To early to give any number of probability for another slide. Not enough data available to be accurate.
· Colorado School of Mines considering a graduate student to do a study on the top ridge line area for probability of future slide.
Garrett Jackson, Colorado Dam Safety Management/Colorado Division of Water Resources
· Aaron Gleason, area dam safety rep in GJ.
· What you can’t see from the slump block is an outlet—spill site
· Low spot currently on the pond that will naturally release if the water rises high enough.
· Will the pond fill and overtop the block?
· Still unknown what the block is made out of. Don’t know saturation level, thus don’t know how to treat it as we normally would a natural dam.
· Pond surface area is 6 acres. Pond depth is 15 ft. Spillway length is 75 yards. Freeboard is 22 feet +/-
· The spillway isn’t a solid mass, but has three deep cracks in it. That spillway from pond to going over ledge of block is 75 yards, approximately.
· June 5th, ppl went out on slide and measured pond and placed stakes to measure time and water levels.
· LiDAR-High resolution survey to give us a high resolution topography of the new terrain.
· Doing a clean water analysis, as if this was a man made dam with a structure failure.
· If block fails and we just have a water incident…the water will likely pick up debris and become an incident most likely in between
· This is a natural sag pond, they are all over the world. Most don’t fail, some do.
· We want to analyze what size of sag pond can be created here without causing a safety issue downstream.
· Community that is so involved with water, we have involved our water commissioners: Steve and Bruce (plateau area commissioner).
· The best early indication of a warning early on from this mountain, is a sudden drop in water.
Andy Martsolf, Emergency Manager for Mesa County/MCSO
· It’s been a lot of admin work to make all the coordination work and resources.
· Been working on a communication plan, so we can make community notification in Plateau Valley, if needed.
· Weather radar equipment established to help support weather specific to Collbran area. NWS will issue all the regular weather products they currently do.
· Establishing a criteria so we understand what movement looks like in this area so we know when to issue warnings.
· Have to look at trend for issuing warnings, expect normal to be small movements. But need long term data to see what is normal movement for this slide area.
· Weather radios have been placed in many public areas in Collbran. Placed weather radios at every Salt Creek resident. Those radios will go off! The technology won’t differentiate YOUR location, so be aware of area for warning issued.
· Any residents that got a weather radio, please contact Andy if you have any issues, problems or questions…get with him. We don’t want frustrated citizens because of this.
What does the future look like? –Sheriff Hilkey
· We have two incident commanders, USFS and MCSO Lt. Done a great job.
· We are going to switch and transfer IC to Mesa County—Pete Baier.
· Doesn’t mean MCSO goes away. It means we are plugged in, in a different way.
· It will probably be seamless to you, and all are still hear and available.
Tom Fisher, Administrator/Mesa County
· Representing the Commissioners today, they have previously been up several times.
· Stayed in the background as we wanted the public safety to maintain the leadership role
· Thank you Plateau Valley community, for your cooperation and support of each other.
· “We have two farmers and a lawyer for Commissioners, and I’m a soldier,” says Tom. So, we don’t have technical expertise for this incident, but the Commissioners are fully supporting of Pete’s team and what is needed to continue monitoring, etc.
· Any questions or frustrations, please direct them to County Admin for resolve. Happy to do that.
Pete Baier, New Incident Commander/Mesa County
· Here forward…two deputy incident managers
· Mike Meiniger, County engineer is one of those deputy ICs
· Pieces of equipment getting cell connections and now pushing data. Gathering some survey data, help us refine those worst case scenarios and better refine our expectations of what is realistic.
· Growing nationwide resources, never got a no of any ask we’ve had.
Mike Meiniger, Engineering Division Director/Mesa County
· Technical team put together was a USGS (2), Colo State Geologists, Army Corps of Engineers, Colo School of Mines, Colo Dam Safety, County engineers, etc. Toured the site all together on Wed., June 5th.
· Their observations were in-lighting and energetic to listen to their expertise,.
· Slope stability will be worked on going forward.
· Army Corps of Engineers will use LiDAR maps with their data gathering.
· Sag pond is nearly the size of the YT Pond, for those locals. Vega Reservoir is about 670 acres and YT Pond is about 9 acres of water.
· Irrigation, cattle, agriculture, natural gas, industries important to this area. There will be a focus on these areas for residents affected. Weekly meeting for this group and determine what are the next steps. Will we leave the sag pond water or figure out how to release the water. Rehab the area, etc.
Pete Baier, New IC/Mesa County
· Just started putting people on block two days ago. Not sure about any equipment. Want more analysis from Garrett Jackson, dam safety expert.
· We believe the sag pond might be safe as is, working to determine this. Carefully, safely and as quick as possible.
· Meeting on a monthly basis and when they have new information to share they will create a newsletter to share. (maybe) Maybe use other methods of communication through town, SM, JIC blog and/or Mesa County website.
· The Collbran Mayor was very helpful sharing concerns to IC from citizens in the area.
Stan Hilkey, Question section—
Q: Any change in the amount of water coming off the Mesa, in the last week?
Jeff Coe, survey around the rim (about last Friday), our best estimate was about 30 cubic ft per second total for 4 primary streams. We have not been back up to re-do that. Plateau Creek has gone down slight, so expect the same up there.
Q: Now is it safe to assume that those of us that live near the Plateau Creek are okay?
Pete Baier, It’s too early to say, but you saw the size of the pond. We don’t a model with a landslide and earth dam break. So, we are combining previous models and trying to determine what is best to apply to this incident. Based only on the landslide model tonight, you saw the worst case scenario, that could be applied to a water event. The water is 2k feet up and will run through a debris field. Keep that in mind.
Andy Martsolf, looking at Plateau Creek daily cycle, so we look at what an additional dump of water would add to Plateau Creek if the water emptied on the slide. Would it be similar to Vega spilling when they are at capacity? That is the way Andy is trying to answer that question.
Stan Hilkey, time is on our side and we will have more info as time goes on.
Q: Educational aspect out of this, long-term, as a community expect from those experts down the road? Matt Nichols mentioned at last town hall meeting that it was important for schools/universities to learn from this event.
Jeff Coe, as a community, one of the most important parts of education is being out in the field and seeing it. Especially geologist and hydrologists. We hope to have a camp or have students stay on-site in the area to map, etc.
Pete Baier, we are working hard and want to attach that long-term team to partner with University and deposit data, so this can go on for quit awhile. We want it to help other communities through academia. The modeling is very tough, when this is done, we may help develop a completely new model. Long term important component though.
Stan Hilkey, though all this we want to honor those private property rights, too.
Andy Martsolf, In Mesa County our main hazards are wildfires, rock falls, and flooding, but this size and scale is unusual. I will be helping emergency managers around the state to understand a major incident that isn’t a fire, what that looks like and do it successfully.
Q: Last week, concern expressed about the water flowing into the pond doesn’t equal the amount in the pond. Where is it going?
Stan Hilkey, we know early on that the water was saturating the dirt. But now it’s building. The question is, how much of the block is saturated and will it effect the block? That will take time to monitor.
Close out. The Incident Management Team has been sensitive to the hallowed ground and the community here that lost three wonderful people.
Mayor Frank Jones, Town Admin of Collbran has had calls from all over the US of geologists that want to come here to study the slide. If any other natural disaster occurs, we are implementing a plan. During a flood, go up, not down to GJ. We want to give you good information to respond in a deliberate mode and accurately. Putting that together for the community and everyone else. Those that didn’t ask, please do. Get the information, the experts are here. Even after meeting. Don’t let your question go unanswered here tonight. Be informed.
End: 7:42 p.m.