Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Update as of 3/27/2017 

Dan Smith with Union Pacific contacted me on 3/22/2017.
On 3/27/2017, he met with me on location on the West side of Hwy 85  Union Pacific trestle and East side of Hwy 85 CDOT bridge; in other words, right between the trestle and the bridge.
We had a very productive visit, consummated  with his commitment to have his crew on location before one month - or April 27th. He projected that the trestle would gain an 80% efficiency.
Dan thanked me for bringing this to their attention. I thanked him, for told him that though we'd walked Governor Hickenlooper around the bridges in 2014, to date, he hadn't initiated any action to get it cleaned.
Only Weld County Commissioner Julie Cozad, has tried to help.
I asked if he knew a Johnny Olson, a contact name I'd been given, and he hadn't.
He told me the Hwy 85 Union Pacific trestle - originally wooden - was built in 1867. They've done a great job of maintaining for a 50 years!
Highway 85 came long after (maybe even 75 years after...I forget now), and well, not so good.
Dan committed to: a) Clearing out the tall willows on the north side of the bridge. b) Cleaning out the sediment wherever needed. c) Maybe removing some trees.
He also offered to remove the dead trees on the West side of CDOT's bridge, because "If whoever owns that property doesn't remove them, it's only a matter of time before they'll move down here and block up our trestle."
He then explained how any kind of blockage can create like a sandpaper action (my words) that could corrode the pillars, and showed me an example under CDOT's bridge.
We discussed Latham ditch's lack of maintenance and diversions, and how that added to the back up lake like problems.
I told him that in about 2008, Ensign was about to build their fence. The Latham ditch rider came and asked me to visit with them. We went to Bill Kidd (now deceased), project manager, and they worked it out so Latham could maintain their ditch. Maybe Latham's cleaned it once since? Chuck said "And that's the FIRST time Lathem cleaned their ditch -  to my recollection  - going back to 1940!"
I shared my speculations as to CDOT's lack of interest in maintaining their easement: Want pretty little multi-use paths along the Platte (We got a good laugh out of that.); want to slope the banks and plant petunias and inverted dead tree roots (which will of course rot quickly). And since the lower end's already overhydrated the upper end, decreasing the consumptive use value, they want the Platte to back up so some government agency can declare the whole bottom a "wetland."
Whatever "whoever's" motive, I know it's not good for the property owners along there!
May 2015  S. Platte looking West
 May 2015 on the west side looking South.
 May 2015 where Governor Hickenlooper, Chuck & I walked in April 2014.
 Early May 2015 looking west. Note the building sand bars. There are several "choke" points on the S. Platte, that encourage the "lake like" back up!
 June 2016 looking north on the west side of CDOT bridge
 June 2016 looking east on the west side
 Dan Smith with UP 3/27/17
 Looking west under the Hwy 85 bridge  - and example of how corrosion begins.
 Looking north along Hwy 85 - on the east side
 Looking north along Hwy 85 on the east side of CDOT bridge. If you look closely at the trestle, you can see a taller stand of willows. UP will remove them.

Update as of 3/22/2017

Zero action on the Union Pacific trestle and CDOT bridge on Hwy 85 between Evans and LaSalle, CO.
Haven't heard back from Dan Smith with U.P. 
Should we get significant rainfall, adjoining property owners west of the bridges, may count on being in a backed up lake.  
It's becoming apparent that CDOT and Union Pacific choose to leave untended, their easement/right of ways under their bridges. 
A reminder: "Left unattended, these log jams will jeopardize the public health and safety of Weld County residents. Leaving the log jams as is, could easily result in additional significant property damage; and more tragically the possible loss of human life."
Lack of action from Governor Hickenlooper (On about April 14, 2014, he walked under the Hwy 85 bridge with us.), CDOT and UP has us considering Colorado nuisance laws. Someone must be held liable for the damages they've caused, by basically maintaining a nuisance on their property. 
CDOT and UP are allowing an accumulation of debris, and maintaining their bridges in such conditions that they cause greater back up lake like flooding then has ever historically occurred. The U.P. bridge may have been built before our home was built in about 1903. But the HWY 85 bridge was built after. Regardless, we can prove our home was never flooded to the degree of the 2013 flood prior to the bridges and the stop of *senior well pumping. Chuck's grandfather would not have built there, nor would his parents been able to stay there if the area was prone to such flooding. 
*Judge Roger Klein stopped senior well pumping on the upper end of the South Platte. This overhydrated the area to such degree, that a 2012/13 study included as one recommendation, "start pumping wells again." Non-pumping has raised the water table from its historic 20ish feet to 2 feet and surfacing. We figure this is the 17" that destroyed the first floor of our home. We're looking into who should be held liable for creating this nuisance of the high water table.
Thank you,
Roni Bell Sylvester 3/22/17
Attached: CDOT 2017-04-01 report on the S. Platte

Following includes some cut and pasted correspondences from January 17, 2017 back to 2015. 
From: Roni Bell Sylvester
Sent: Tuesday, January 17, 2017 2:20 PM
Cc: Angus Mcintosh, Chuck Sylvester, Dan Ochsner, Kathy Werning
Subject: Re: Update re: U.P. bridge - - - Urgent matter for Weld County Commissioners

To: Dan Smith and David Zwick with Union Pacific,
and affected Property Owners along the S. Platte River

I forgot to note the date I visited with David Zwick (UP) and Dan Smith (UP) but I think was January 5, 2017.
David and or Dan, please correct or confirm. Thank you.
Anyway, I first explained the problem with the debri under both Hwy 85 bridge and UP trestle, to David Zwick. 
Shortly after,  Dan Smith called. We visited in depth for over an hour, and agreed that a location meeting would be essential. 
Then the Stock Show interrupted...So please forgive my lateness in this update.
David asked, "If UP cleans their right-of-way, and CDOT doesn't, then what?"
I answered, "That would remove liability from U.P."
Property Owners agree the river so low, now would be a good time for U.P. to clean up their right-of-way.
Thank you,
cc: David Zwick 
From: Roni Bell Sylvester
Sent: Monday, December 12, 2016 5:06 PM
Subject: Re: Update re: U.P. bridge - - - Urgent matter for Weld County Commissioners

Update on Hwy 85 bridge.

There's been zero progress. Talked with UP again on 11/23/16; they gave me a number for a "Seth" Frazee. I left 2-3 messages. Nothing.
Today I called UP again and a guy transferred me so fast I didn't get his name. I left a message on the "new number."
Kyle (Seth) Frazee called back. He explained that he was the "rails" guy, and that Dan Smith was "under the trestle" guy. He also explained that they didn't have the equipment available to clean under the bridge. I answered, "The farmers and ranchers along there have the equipment to clean - and our offer to do so was countered with, 'that'd be trespass.' I said letting the S.Platte form a lake and flood property was like a reverse trespass.
Then I called and left a message for Dan Smith.
It's beginning to look as though UP isn't interested in maintaining under their bridge.
From: Roni Bell Sylvester
Sent: Monday, November 7, 2016 4:57 PM
Subject: Fw: Update re: U.P. bridge - - - Urgent matter for Weld County Commissioners

November 7, 2016

I, Roni Bell Sylvester, spoke with "Abby" with Union Pacific (402-544-5000) regards update on the Hwy 85 UP trestle.
She found the record of my Sept 7th  conversation with "Alicia." After reviewing it, she said that UP had checked and found the trestle to be sound.
I told her there'd been no evidence of clean up, and asked if they'd addressed our complaint of debris/sediment/logs/willows etc.
She checked again and said no, and that the record apparently referred to assuring the trestle safety.
I answered, no, that we needed the debris cleaned out because it was backing up, creating a lake and flooding out residents; that all we had to know is when that would be taken care of, and that we could get farmers with their equipment to clean it all out in a day.
She responded, "No. We wouldn't want you to do that, because that'd be criminal trespass."
She was very nice and thorough, we visited about 15 minutes or so. And then she essentially re-classified the complaint as "Vegetation on the right of way."
She offered that if "it isn't cleaned out in a week, please call us back."
The reference # is 2016-11-07-083AAF.
Let's all keep out eyes on hopeful progress.
Questions for our commissioners: If that's a "right-of-way" does that mean UP has title to the land under the trestle, or only an easement?
Same with CDOT: Does CDOT have a "right-of-way, easement" or do they have title? The answer is important, for if one or the other or neither own the land (because the Platte is not navigable) under those bridges, maybe we should find the owner and ask them permission to clear out the debris.
Respective of "criminal trespass," due to our suggested entrance and subsequent maintenance of said land, what about criminal trespass of water on our properties due to CDOT and UP's "non-maintenance" of said land. Couldn't their non-action with subsequent entrance of unwanted water on our property be construed as criminal trespass?
Thank you,

On Sept 7, 2016, at 11:46, Roni Bell Sylvester <> wrote:
Good Morning W.C. Commissioners,
Just spoke with an "Alicia" with Union Pacific main headquarters Omaha (402-544-5000)
I explained the debris situation under the Hwy 85 UP trestle.
Paraphrased, here's the jest of our conversation:
She quickly looked up the location, verified, then began asking questions: Is it trash/garbage etc.?
I clarified, "logs, trees, sediment, willows grown to the underbelly of the trestle. It's reached critical mass."
She asked something; I can't remember exactly what it was, but it generated my answer, "To our knowledge, it hasn't been maintained in 60 years. It now backs up and creates a lake."
She asked if I was with an organization.
"No, I said, "I'm one of the property owners on the S. Platte who's being impact."
In close, I offered, "Just for your information, our Weld County Commissioners and CDOT are aware of this.  Basically CDOT claims the major part of the problem is Union Pacific's."
She said she'd report this immediately and "get someone on it and get it taken care of!"
Though I sensed this was possibly the first time such was brought to U.P.'s attention, I was very impressed with Alicia's thorough, thoughtful, efficient handling; and got the impression U.P. would "get on it and get it taken care of."
Together, let's please stay on top of this. If U.P. cleans out from under their trestle, and CDOT cleans out from under their bridge before spring runoff, it will bring great relief to all property owners up stream.

Thank you,
cc: Brian Varrella, property owners
Hard copy mailed to U.P.

To: kevin.s.o'
Subject: Rep. Garret Graves - re: Army Corps
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2016 09:41:04 -0600
Dear Congressman Graves,
Thank you for helping LA flood victims.
Here's what I posted on my Facebook:
Having endured a flood (that was partially man-made), we are very, very sad for what Louisianans are now going through.
Chuck and I are extremely impressed with the magnitude of work Louisianans did in removing their belongings and stripping their homes down to the frames. And so amazingly fast!
We pray Governor John Bel Edwards immediately sets up a LA State liaison between home owners and FEMA.
It's a known fact that Federal won't hesitate to later tag "grants" as... "loans" and send aid recipients "bills"; and or just "take" people's property like they did in Sandy and Katrina.
Congressman Garret Graves was spot on when he mentioned something along the line "had the Army Corps of Engineers finished some projects it would have diminished the flood's impact."
Guess the Army Corps was too busy plugging up (sand bars for the Piping Plover) the Missouri River to finish old projects.
Roni Bell Sylvester
Volunteer Editor Publisher
P.O. Box 155
LaSalle, CO  80645
H# (970) 284-6874
Dear Julie,

Thank you so kindly for setting up the meeting. I really appreciated the opportunity to share some of what's happening - boots on the ground.
Thank you for this information from Mayor John Morris.
Really need to convince Governor Hickenlooper to withdraw Colorado from the PRRIP. We have zero water to spare. And, I have no idea who benefits from the $'s when we don't meet the water delivery. It's a horrible agreement begging to be terminated.
Thank you,
Roni Bell Sylvester
Volunteer Editor Publisher
P.O. Box 155
LaSalle, CO  80645
H# (970) 284-6874

Subject: FW: Trail/sidewalk along South Platte
Date: Fri, 29 Jul 2016 21:51:54 +0000

See below from Mayor John Morris.  Thank you both for your time this morning!  Have a great weekend.  Julie

Julie Cozad
Weld County Commissioner, District 2
1150 O Street
P.O. Box 758
Greeley, CO 80632

Office:  970-336-7204
Cell:  970-515-2424
Fax:  970-336-7233

Confidentiality Notice: This electronic transmission and any attached documents or other writings are intended only for the person or entity to which it is addressed and may contain information that is privileged, confidential or otherwise protected from disclosure. If you have received this communication in error, please immediately notify sender by return e-mail and destroy the communication. Any disclosure, copying, distribution or the taking of any action concerning the contents of this communication or any attachments by anyone other than the named recipient is strictly prohibited.

From: John Morris []
Sent: Friday, July 29, 2016 1:31 PM
To: Julie Cozad 
Subject: RE: Trail/sidewalk along South Platte

Hi Julie, here is response from staff.

We intend on removing the concrete trail just downstream of the bridge that washed into the river. The trail section immediately under the bridge is actually in good condition except for some debris and would be re-used. The work would take place in 2017, and it would depend on the contractor’s timeframe as far as what is done first but since they would be doing demolition first they likely would remove the concrete in the river sooner.

John L. Morris / Mayor
City of Evans
Evans, CO 80620
(970) 475-2209
Met with W.C.C. Julie Cozad and Brian Varrella July 28, 2016 
Varrella claimed it was mostly U.P.'s fault. I asked for U.P. contact info. Can't remember if he provided them or if I got them on my own.
The photos Varrella showed of the bridges, were taken from such an angle one could basically see only sand bars and cleared bridge and trestle;not the massive log debris, sediment and willows that reached their underbellies. 

From: Roni Bell Sylvester []
Sent: Wednesday, June 01, 2016 1:20 PM
To: Julie Cozad Subject: RE: CDOT Hydraulics Memo for the South Platte River, SH60 to US85

Hi Julie,

It's been so confusing around here of late, not sure if I responded to you or not.
My apologies.

The Report: The two (2) US 85 structures create no more than three (3) inches of increased flooding on properties upstream in their configurations today, and the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) Bridge downstream of US 85 creates nearly a foot of rise on upstream properties.  This indicates the US 85 bridge presents only a minor flooding hazard to upstream and adjacent properties.
Our comments: Regardless who's at fault - CDOT bridge or UPRR - the debris  needs to be cleaned out.
Question: Where were said "measurements" taken? We're pretty certain they exceeded 15 inches at the Oshner's (right at the bridge)  for at our home (a quarter mile further west) it was a non-historic 55".
The Report: Recommendation #2 – CDOT should continue to remove debris from the US 85 and SH 60 bridges under the same regiment currently utilized by its Maintenance professionals in Region 4.
Our comments: To date, we haven't witnessed any debris removal around the US 85 bridge. The willows now touch the bridge undersides, and as the bank on the north side erodes, new trees fall into the river, adding to the blockage.

Please remind whoever's in charge: Clean out the debris and the sediment NOW! 

Thank you,
From: Roni Bell Sylvester [
Sent: Monday, November 23, 2015 1:46 PM
To: Mike Freeman <>; Julie Cozad <>; Barbara Kirkmeyer <>; Sean Conway <>; Steve Moreno <>
Subject: Thank you - Urgent matter for Weld County Commissioners

Dear Commissioners Freeman, Cozad, Kirkmeyer, Conway and Moreno,

Thank you for taking the time to meet with us this morning.
Thank you for arranging for CDOT and W.C. Planners et al to participate.
We appreciated the time to get on record, our emergency request on the debris/sediment Highway's 60 and 80 bridges.
If you have minutes of the meeting, we'd love a copy.
Will send you our brief recap soon.
Thank you again,

Chuck & Roni Sylvester
Glenn and Kathy Werning
Karen Little 

Subject: Urgent matter for Weld County Commissioners
Date: Wed, 14 Oct 2015 11:04:35 -0600
Matter of Emergency!

To: Weld County Commissioners
1150 O Street
P.O. Box 758
Greeley, CO 80632
phone: (970) 336-7204
fax: (970) 336-7233 x 4021

District 1: Mike Freeman 
mfreeman@weldgov.comDistrict 2:Julie Cozad jcozad@weldgov.comDistrict 3: Barbara Kirkmeyer bkirkmeyer@weldgov.comAt-Large: Sean Conway sconway@weldgov.comAt-Large: Steve Moreno 
Weld County Property Owners on the South Platte River
Regarding: Log jams under  bridges
Weld County Property Owners on the South Platte River agree it is imperative you take immediate action to remove log jams under the Highway 60 and Highway 85 bridges over the S. Platte River.
As our Weld County Commissioners, we are confident you'll want to exercise your emergency powers to remove these log jams immediately! 
Left untended, these log jams will jeopardize the public health and safety of Weld County residents.
Leaving the log jams as is, could easily result in additional significant property damage; and more tragically the possible loss of human life.
Please schedule 2 hours to meet with Property Owners within the week (before Friday October 23rd, 2015). I will notify the Property Owners of your set date and time.
Together, we can, and must, remove the log jams now!
 Thank you. 
 Roni Bell Sylvester - Meeting Coordinator
(970) 284-6874
Bcc: Property Owners along the upper South Platte River
First, federal jurisdiction only applies to "navigable waters of the United States" so if the South Platte is non-navigable, then there is no federal jurisdiction in the first place. 
Second, even if the South Platte was "navigable" then Title 33 USCA Chapter 26 Section 1370 says: "Except as expressly provided in this chapter, nothing in this chapter shall... 
(2) be construed as impairing or in any manner affecting any right or jurisdiction of the States with respect to the waters (including boundary waters) of such States." 

Third, the law pertaining to the requirement for obtaining permits, Title 33 USCA Chapter 26 Section 1344 says:    
(f) Non-prohibited discharge of dredged or fill material
(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, the discharge of dredged or fill material—
(A) from normal farming, silviculture, and ranching activities such as plowing, seeding, cultivating, minor drainage, harvesting for the production of food, fiber, and forest products, or upland soil and water conservation practices;
(B) for the purpose of maintenance, including emergency reconstruction of recently damaged parts, of currently serviceable structures such as dikes, dams, levees, groins, riprap, breakwaters, causeways, and bridge abutments or approaches, and transportation structures;
(C) for the purpose of construction or maintenance of farm or stock ponds or irrigation ditches, or the maintenance of drainage ditches;
(D) for the purpose of construction of temporary sedimentation basins on a construction site which does not include placement of fill material into the navigable waters;
(E) for the purpose of construction or maintenance of farm roads or forest roads, or temporary roads for moving mining equipment, where such roads are constructed and maintained, in accordance with best management practices, to assure that flow and circulation patterns and chemical and biological characteristics of the navigable waters are not impaired, that the reach of the navigable waters is not reduced, and that any adverse effect on the aquatic environment will be otherwise minimized;
(F) resulting from any activity with respect to which a State has an approved program under section 1288 (b)(4) of this title which meets the requirements of subparagraphs (B) and (C) of such section,
is not prohibited by or otherwise subject to regulation under this section or section 1311 (a) or 1342 of this title (except for effluent standards or prohibitions under section 1317 of this title)." 


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