Fountain Creek: “We won’t be able to get in until it gets lower” — Jeff Bailey

Fountain Creek Watershed
Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Even though Fountain Creek has settled down a bit, flows are going to have to drop a whole lot more before repairs along the channel can be made.

And money will have to start flowing as well.

Oh, and other problems from the storm elsewhere in the city need to be addressed.

This week, flows in Fountain Creek are about 500 cubic feet per second, or about one-fifth of the intensity that ripped away banks and cut new channels in May and June. That’s still above normal, but not supposed to be damaging, according to experts who’ve talked about the situation over the past few years.

The receding water has revealed more dead trees, new sand bars and new alignments of Fountain Creek within the channel.

In numerous meetings on Fountain Creek, increased base flows have been presented by experts as somewhat innocuous in the grand scheme of things. It’s the big floods that scoop and scour, they say.

The problem is, those higher base flows still are creating problems as well as making it difficult to get into the creek even to see what needs to be done, said Jeff Bailey, Pueblo stormwater director.

“We won’t be able to get in until it gets lower,” Bailey said. “I don’t want to jeopardize our equipment.”

He explained that the piles of sand that showed up in Fountain Creek could easily collapse under the weight of heavy machinery, and right now there’s no way of knowing how deep the bottom of the channel is.

The city is most concerned about the bike trail on the northeast corner of the highway bridge at Colorado 47. Fountain Creek continues, even at lower flows, to eat away the bank under the concrete trail. “It’s undermined the area and now the trail is starting to tip,” Bailey said. “We notified CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) that it’s starting to undercut the riprap on the bridge abutment.”

A visual inspection of the area by The Pueblo Chieftain Tuesday confirmed that the sidewalk is literally on the brink, about 20 feet above a still-hungry river chopping at the bank. Directly across the creek lies the ravaged bank of a stormwater detention pond where a 10-foot tall, 15-foot wide roadway is gradually disappearing.

Higher water also will continue to delay the Army Corps of Engineers project to protect railroad tracks near the Interstate 25 interchange at 13th Street. It was started in April, but interrupted by the charging waters.

The city’s other priority is removing all the trees and logs which piled up against bridges in the city all along Fountain Creek during the continuous flooding.

“That’s money-oriented,” Bailey said.

The city did request disaster relief through the state and federal government, but the process takes a while, and the amount uncertain and not guaranteed. Grants for damage from 2013 floods in the South Platte River basin are still being processed two years later, and the latest round of requests by Colorado was made just last week.

Meanwhile, the city is scrambling to deal with other stormwater problems. There are hundreds of inlets throughout the city’s stormwater system that need to be checked, many of which have become clogged with debris because of recent storms or, in a few cases, negligent construction practices.

The heavy rains also created more demand for mowing the city’s stormwater basins and ditches. “We don’t have a lot of people, but we do our darndest,” Bailey said. “You have to tackle the biggest fire on your desk and just keep plugging away.”

More Fountain Creek coverage here.

Leave a Reply