By Lillian Palmer
Staff Writer 

Caution urged around high, fast river waters


Fast-moving water flowing along the Green River is a reason to be cautious during Flaming Gorge Days.

Due to high runoff levels, precipitation and releases from the Fontenelle Reservoir, the Green River has been flowing at high speeds with high water levels within the past weeks.

Debris is flowing down the river as well.

These elements combined make for a more dangerous combination when recreating in the river.

The Green River Fire Department and Green River Police Department urge those recreating in the water to take necessary precautions when doing so.

A family had a close call last week when they floated the Green River; which resulted in their 10-year-old boy getting rescued from the water by members of the Green River Fire Department's water rescue team.

"The family did everything right," Larry Erdmann, Battalion Chief of the GRFD said. "They were all wearing life jackets. Otherwise if they wouldn't have been, the outcome could've been so much different."

The family was afloat the river in tubes with life vests equipped. When they reached the first rapid at Gorge Rock by the sandy shore of Expedition Island, the boy's tube drifted away from the group and caught in an eddy in the river, holding the boy in a continuous circular current.

"With the river being as high as it is, that fall by Gorge Rock is such a dangerous fall right now," Erdmann said. "It turns into a washing machine. Even with a life jacket on, it will take you under water."

The boy was stuck in the water for about 30 minutes, he said. After a couple attempts by the boy's father to rescue the boy, the fire department was called. The rescue started with some people posted up stream to watch for debris flowing down the river that may disrupt the rescue. Two rescuers started upstream from the boy, one went downstream and a team was ready at the Trona walking bridge with throw bags and ropes to pull the rescuers and boy to shore.

Water rescuer Cliff Walgren reached the boy first from upstream, caught their breath and prepped the boy for the swim downstream. Rescuer Jamie Walgren swam downstream to map out the corse to the on-shore responders stationed on the bridge with throw bags.

The rescuers and boy reached the bridge and were pulled to shore.

"Water rescue does end up being a pretty big ordeal," Erdmann said. "It takes a lot of people to do one safely."

Erdmann said the rescue worked well because so many firefighters showed up to help. It takes a lot of people to do a good rescue, he said. Erdmann urges anyone recreating in the river to always wear a life vest.

He also recommends not to attempt to enter the water to rescue someone in the river by themselves, but to call the fire department if someone needs help in the river.

"It's best not to get in the water," he said. "Use a stick, a rope, a throw bag for them to grab hold of and pull them in, and not jeopardize the second person."

The Green River will remain high and fast for another few weeks while high runoff and releases from Fontenelle Reservoir continue. Erdmann speculates the river will be back down to it's base level by mid July.

Due to high amounts of precipitation in May and consequentially increased mountain snow runoff, the Fontenelle Reservoir's water release has been significantly higher to keep the reservoir at capacity.

"It's the peak time for runoff," Heather Patno, Hydraulic Engineer of the Upper Colorado Region of Bureau of Reclamation said. "It usually doesn't last too long, a few weeks to a month then back down to the normal flow of the river."

Water releases from the Fontenelle Reservoir will come down from its peak release amount now of 6,200 cubic feet per second of water, to 1,500 cfs within the next 10 days.

The release change should be done by June 30, she said.

"Coming from the spring peak to base flow levels is a big decrease. It's typical for this time of year but is a significant decrease," Patno said. "You should see a more stable river through the rest of the season most likely."


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