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Watershed Science + Design

 
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It all started when….

in 2014, about a year after the Colorado floods,

Katie was searching for a way to lead local disaster recovery efforts without the barriers and conflicted interests that came with working for a large consulting firm. Watershed Science and Design was born from her desire to stay true to river science and participate in the disaster recovery in her own community.

Katie built Watershed Science and Design (WSD) with a deep comprehension of river science, geomorphology, engineering, and hydrology. WSD provides subject matter experts and offers reviews, solutions, and discussions that are informed by the latest research in the fields related to watershed management and river design.

WSD understands how human actions and interventions can influence a river system—and vice versa.  Our employees have been immersed in helping their clients navigate the inter-connectedness and inter-dependencies of the physical and social landscape within watersheds and river systems.

 

Our Character

SOPHISTICATED

We are professional and established industry experts.

COLLABORATIVE + Flexible

We value working with diverse partners; we are flexible and we adapt quickly to changing rules and constraints.

INVESTED

We are unbiased and honest. Every day we are able to put client’s goals first.

 
 

Our Services

 
 

Disaster Response + Recovery

Technical Assistance + Program Management

leadership + Decision making support when SHTF

 
 
 
 
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2013 Colorado Floods: Colorado Front Range

In early September 2013 several days of rain caused massive flooding across Colorado’s Front Range communities. Streams reclaimed floodplains, destroyed roads, bridges, and buildings and ripped vegetation from riverbanks. In total, the flood caused approximately $4 billion in damage to infrastructure and public and private property.

 
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2013 Floods Colorado Emergency Watershed Protection Program

technical assistance AND PROGRAM MANAGEMENT

Katie Jagt of WSD was the Deputy Program Manager for the State of Colorado’s execution of the Colorado Emergency Watershed Protection program.   She was also the lead designer for the Wall Street EWP project in the Fourmile Creek Watershed, an area that experienced both a wildfire and a severe flood.

The EWP program implemented recovery measures in nine watersheds impacted by the 2013 Colorado flood. In just three years, the Colorado EWP Program identified, scoped, designed, permitted and implemented 67 flood recovery projects to reduce erosion, stabilize streambanks, remove sediment and debris, provide soil stabilization and rehabilitate damaged wildlife and aquatic habitat.

 

67

projects constructed

$70M

construction costs

65

miles of River Corridor recovery projects completed

900

property owners engaged

 
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Holistic Solutions

Doing good work in river corridors requires an understanding that all actions are connected. In our recent past, flood mitigation projects have been “bandaid” solutions that address the symptoms of a problem, but do not work toward solving the problems itself.

This program is different. Project concepts were created carefully, such that physical and ecologic concerns were addressed at their foundation. Care was taken to ensure that proposed solutions did not transfer problems to adjacent properties or to downstream communities. For example, raising an embankment and installing a rock facade on one side of the river does not solve the problem of erosion—it merely transfers the erosion to the other side of the river or to a softer bank downstream.

Environmental Considerations

Enhancement of ecological function was a foundational goal of each project and was incorporated into the design at the onset of project scoping.

Guiding principles established for the implementation of Colorado Flood Recovery projects included:

  • Incorporation of bioengineering techniques which rely on the integration and strength of vegetation.

  • Channel sections that considered the hydrology and hydraulics for low flows, annual flows, and flood events and how fish species would be able to use the creek at all these water levels.

  • Aquatic, riparian, and terrestrial habitat enhancement using plants and other native materials.

  • Revegetation with native plant species in abundance and diversity, including those lost years ago to grazing.

  • Removal of invasive species, such as crack willow (salix fragilis), that created debris blockages during the flood.

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Amidst everything - recalcitrant landowners, recalcitrant partners, swaying political tea leaves, impossible deadlines, impossible budgets, etc., etc., etc - you all have maintained the utmost professionalism. This program will stand the test of time, and it’s all because of you.
— Kevin Houck, CWCB
 
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The Colorado EWP Program was recognized with the 2018 Award for Engineering Excellence by the Colorado Association of Stormwater and Floodplain Managers

 
 
 

Disaster Recovery

Design + Construction Oversight

 
 
 
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2017 Project Highlight

North Fork Big Thompson EWP Construction

In September 2013, over the span of a week, heavy rainfall fell across the Big Thompson watershed. The heavy rains caused rivers in the Drake area to overflow and caused heavy erosion along the banks, several channel avulsions, new channels to form in the overbanks, and a significant sediment deposition near the confluence. 

The project reach associated with this North Fork project runs from the Highway 34 bridge at the downstream end  to the Storm Mountain Road bridge at the upstream end – a stream length of approximately 2,100 feet.   The project was sponsored by the CWCB and Larimer County.  

 
Sediment removal, realignment, and bank stabilization construction in April of 2017.

Sediment removal, realignment, and bank stabilization construction in April of 2017.

Reconstructed reach of the North Fork Big Thompson near Drake, Summer 2018, 14 months after the completion of construction.

Reconstructed reach of the North Fork Big Thompson near Drake, Summer 2018, 14 months after the completion of construction.

 
 
 

State of Colorado

Fluvial Hazard Zone Mapping

 
 
 
 
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Identifying Hazards that Floodplain Maps Miss

Erosion, deposition, and channel avulsion are significant hazards associated with flooding that are not incorporated into traditional floodplain maps, however, these processes ravaged the river systems of the Front Range in 2013 resulting in property damage, infrastructure failure, and death. Watershed Science + Design is working with the State of Colorado to develop a program focused on the identification and mapping of these hazards as well as tools to help communities and landowners better understand ALL the hazards associated with river systems. 

Civil Air Patrol Photo of the Moodie neighborhood near Drake, Colorado. The homes on the left side of the photo were all above the mapped 100-year floodplain, however, channel bank and hillslope erosion undermined the structures resulting in catastrophic losses. Photo Credit: Civil Air Patrol.

Civil Air Patrol Photo of the Moodie neighborhood near Drake, Colorado. The homes on the left side of the photo were all above the mapped 100-year floodplain, however, channel bank and hillslope erosion undermined the structures resulting in catastrophic losses. Photo Credit: Civil Air Patrol.

 

Definitions

Fluvial Hazard ZOne

The area streams have occupied in recent history, could occupy, or could physically influence as they store and transport sediment + debris.

 

Erosion

The disintegration of the stream bed, stream banks, or adjacent hillsides  either gradually or instantaneously due to the forces  of flowing water.

 

Deposition

The accumulation of sediment that has been transported by the river. Deposition often clogs river channels and increases the elevations of floodplains. "Deposition" and "sedimentation" are often used interchangeably. 

 

 
 

Developing the State of Colorado’s Fluvial Hazard Zone Mapping Technical Protocol

Fluvial processes become hazardous when an adjusting stream channel threatens public infrastructure, houses, businesses, and other investments. Fluvial Hazard Zone mapping represents a significant and necessary step forward in identifying and addressing hazards posed by flood events.

Watershed Science + Design and Round River Design, along with federal and state partners are developing scientifically-backed technical guidance to assist communities in identifying the fluvial hazard zones in their communities. A draft technical protocol is expected to be released for public comment in mid-2019.

 
Below: Drake, Colorado. The Big Thompson River re-occupied the entirety of the Active River Corridor during the 2013 flood, flanking bridges and depositing sediment eroded from upstream reaches and captured during hillslope failures triggered by river movement. Photo: Civil Air Patrol.

Below: Drake, Colorado. The Big Thompson River re-occupied the entirety of the Active River Corridor during the 2013 flood, flanking bridges and depositing sediment eroded from upstream reaches and captured during hillslope failures triggered by river movement. Photo: Civil Air Patrol.

 
 

Executing FHZ Mapping Throughout Colorado

WSD and Round River Design are leading the CWCB's FHZ pilot mapping program.  Participating communities include: Town of Estes Park, Boulder County, Town of Nederland, City of Castle Rock, Eagle County, Saguache County and Crestone, San Miguel County, and the City of Delta. 

The participating communities submitted applications to the CWCB in 2017 and they represent a diverse sampling of the geophysical regions throughout the state.  

Draft maps are expected in March 2019. 

 
A home near Cotopaxi, Colorado destroyed by water and sediment moving over an alluvial fan. This damage was not associated with a dramatic flood event, rather it was the result of a typical summer thunderstorm that occured over an area burned by a wildfire.

A home near Cotopaxi, Colorado destroyed by water and sediment moving over an alluvial fan. This damage was not associated with a dramatic flood event, rather it was the result of a typical summer thunderstorm that occured over an area burned by a wildfire.

 
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Why not "Erosion Hazard Mapping”?

Erosion is just one of the geomorphic hazards associated with rivers. Simply measuring, modeling, or calculating erosion or bank retreat is insufficient to capture all hazards in a river corridor. Other geomorphic hazards include deposition, avulsion, and fan processes. This program identifies areas susceptible to erosion but also includes areas where these other geomorphic hazards present risk.