5 Things You Should Know About Colorado's '1,000 Year Flood' (with Jaw-Dropping Photos)
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Several species of bark beetles have ravaged forests all across the American West—Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. The black spruce, white spruce, ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, whitebark pine, and piñon have all been devastated by recent bark beetles epidemic. When healthy trees become stressed from severe and sustained drought, they become subject to attack: the beetles drill into their bark, lay eggs along the way, and kill their host.
Climate change may be aiding the devastation of bark beetles on forest ecosystems—which in turn is aiding catastrophic wildfires, which is contributing to dangerous floods. It's a vicious cycle.
5. Damage to oil and gas wells, infrastructure.
The extent of the damage caused by the floods won’t be known for some time, but some residents are worried about damage to oil and gas wells and pipelines that could be creating other hazards and environmental impacts. Bruce Finley at the Denver Post reported:
One pipeline has broken and is leaking, Weld County Emergency Manager Roy Rudisill said. Other industry pipelines are sagging as saturated sediment erodes around the expanding river.
Industry crews "are shutting in the lines, shutting in the wells," Rudisill said.
In a statement, Gary Wockner, of Clean Water Action, said "Fracking and operating oil and gas facilities in floodplains is extremely risky. Flood waters can topple facilities and spread oil, gas, and cancer-causing fracking chemicals across vast landscapes making contamination and clean-up efforts exponentially worse and more complicated."
Weld County, where the South Platte River has flooded, has been an epicenter of oil and gas drilling in recent years. A website for the county says, "Horizontal drilling has brought new life to energy industry in Weld County, and today, Weld has more oil and gas wells than any other county in the state; approximately 20,000."
Carl Erickson, a resident of Greeley in Weld County, has seen well sites flooded and condensate tanks floating in the Platte River. He is worried about the release of oil products and uncombusted waste gases, as well as possible release of chemicals from companies that store chemicals and are located in the flood zone.
In addition to oil and gas infrastructure, flooding may also cause the risk of spills from other sites with hazardous materials, as well as sewage treatment plants, sewer systems, and feedlots.
Here are some photos taken by resident Robert Winkler in the Greeley/Evans area of oil/gas well sites and infrastructure.