Pueblo is not waiting on improvements to Fountain Creek

The confluence of Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River in Pueblo County -- photo via the Colorado Springs Business Journal
The confluence of Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River in Pueblo County — photo via the Colorado Springs Business Journal

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo County’s agreement on stormwater control with Colorado Springs comes at an ideal time for the city of Pueblo.

The city is looking at steps it must take to clear the Fountain Creek channel in order to obtain flood plain certification from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The agreement would provide an additional $3 million to the city of Pueblo, which could be matched by about $1.8 million in Colorado Springs money now held by the county and $1.2 million from other sources.

So, if it can find another $400,000 annually over three years, Pueblo would be able to complete $6 million in projects. Money could start arriving by the end of May if the agreement is approved.

“It’s not enough to get all the silt out,” said Jeff Bailey, Pueblo’s stormwater director. “We think it would take two or three times that to do all the work. But we could select areas and get the bulk of vegetation and silt out.”

Such critical areas would include the Eighth Street bridge, where Fountain Creek now flows through only two of the five archways because the other three are so badly silted over.

Another spot would be the north end of Fountain Creek, which is still littered with big cottonwood trees that washed down last spring.

“If we can open that up, it would provide more of an area to spread the water,” Bailey said.

A project approved by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable Wednesday would use $250,000 from the local sources and $5,000 in state money to remove debris and sediment between Colorado 47 and Eighth Street in Fountain Creek. The project would be funded by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Pueblo County — each providing $100,000 — along with the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District ($50,000 from Aurora funds through the Lower Ark).

The Lower Ark district would coordinate the project, which is patterned after a similar dredging effort at North La Junta on the Arkansas River.

Beyond the immediate cleanup, the city has hired a consultant to make recommendations for long-term fixes. It is also in the process of meeting with FEMA to determine current flood plain boundaries.

Fountain Creek is a moving target. The largest recorded flood in 1965 would be considered greater than a 100-year flood today. In addition, the increase in impervious surfaces in Colorado Springs to the north would make that same flood more intense by passing a larger volume of water more quickly. The new study will look at the new levels for a 100-year flood.

Another $6 million would help, Bailey said.

“First I would have to find out what kind of restrictions are on the money,” Bailey said. “Then, how soon can I have the money?”

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