#Colorado Springs turns dirt on first project under Ballot Issue 2

Colorado Springs with the Front Range in background. Photo credit Wikipedia.

From KRDO.com (Mekialaya White):

City crews are officially starting work to repair stormwater drainage after Colorado Springs voters passed Ballot Issue 2 back in April.

It comes with a price tag of $12 million dollars in excess revenue.

“This multi phase project will address flooding in the hardest hit area in the Little Shooks Run neighborhood by making several improvements to the drainage system through the end of 2017,” Mayor John Suthers, with the city of Colorado Springs explained.

The project will use $6 million this year and another $6 next year.

“It’s just an example of how we can take needed dollars and fix issues that have been around for a long time.” said Water Resources Engineering Division Manager Rich Mulledy.

The projects directly impact other parts of Southern Colorado. Pueblo county and city leaders have dealt with their share of storm water issues also, stemming from Fountain Creek.

“A lot of erosion and occasionally a sewer spill,” said Steve Nawrocki, Pueblo City Council President has said.

Grand Valley Drainage District summary judgment dismissed, trial next month

Bicycling the Colorado National Monument, Grand Valley in the distance via Colorado.com

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Mesa County District Judge Lance Timbreza on Wednesday rejected motions from both sides for summary judgment in the case, meaning that a trial set to begin June 5 will go forward.

The drainage district in 2016 began charging the fee — $36 per year for most residences — within its 90-square-mile district on the north side of the Colorado River.

Businesses are charged $36 a year for each 2,500 square feet of impervious surfaces, generally roofs and parking lots.

The Mesa County Commission and Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce filed suit alleging that the charge amounted to an illegal tax under the state Constitution.

The district has collected more than $3 million so far from the bills it sent out last year and this one.

The undisputed facts offered by both sides do not resolve whether the district’s charge is a fee or a tax, Timbreza wrote, noting that he was aware that his predecessor said the charge was “in the nature of a fee.”

Judge David Bottger made that finding in denying a request by the county and chamber for a preliminary injunction halting collection of the fee.

Bottger’s finding, however, “does not carry any precedential value in this case or in any other case,” Timbreza wrote.

One issue Timbreza said he wants resolved is the primary purpose of the charge.

The district needs to raise revenue to improve its ability to handle “regulated water,” or water that is unrelated to the district’s original purpose, that makes its way into the district’s system of pipes, conduits and ditches.

“I cannot determine whether the primary purpose of the revenue generated by the fee is to improve all facilities for the benefit of all of the district’s services or only for the specific purposes of regulating regulated water, which includes stormwater, and the regulation, handling and control of stormwater is a primary, legislative purpose of the district,” Timbreza wrote.

Representatives of both sides said they welcomed the trial.

“I think both sides would agree, we need a good, serious judicial look, so we all know where we stand,” Mesa County Commissioner Scott McInnis said.

Better to determine the status of the charge now instead of 10 years from now, said Tim Ryan, general manager of the drainage district.

“The whole process is a welcome development for the district,” Ryan said.

Ryan and McInnis both are to testify in the case.

“We look forward to the opportunity to present our case in court that this is indeed a tax on residents in the Grand Valley Drainage District,” said Diane Schwenke, president and chief executive officer of the chamber.

South Platte Master Plan: Will require a “coalition of stakeholders” — Kevin Houck

South Platte River near Kersey September 13, 2009.

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

The SPMP is a year-long study of flood mitigation on the lower South Platte River. Authorized and funded by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the plan will try to find ways to make the river more “flood resilient,” both to handle the flooding as it occurs, with minimal damage to property and structures, and to quickly recover from a flood in the aftermath.

The project area includes 130 miles of the South Platte River from the Weld-Morgan County Line to the Nebraska state line.

Friday’s meeting was organized primarily by Logan County Commissioner Dave Donaldson and hosted by Morgan County Commissioner Jim Zwetzig, but was attended by commissioners from all four counties and a variety of other water interests.

Donaldson opened the meeting by saying, as he has in the past, that he would like to see some “channelizing” of the South Platte in areas where sand bars and other sediment accumulations have caused some blockage to the river, which worsens flood damage.

Kayla Uptmor, chief of civil works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District, said any COE work done on flood mitigation would have to have a return on investment.

“Our first question is, ‘What is the need for federal investment,'” Uptmor said. “The thinking in Congress is that for projects like this, there needs to be a dollar-for-dollar return to the federal government on the investment made.”

She said that doesn’t necessarily mean revenue; in the case of flood mitigation the return would be in terms of less damage.

In any event, Uptmor said, it would be at least 2020 before any funds could even be budgeted for DOE projects on the South Platte River.

Kevin Houck, chief of watershed and flood protection for the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said several times during the meeting that once the study is finished, early next year, would require a “coalition of stakeholders,” and solutions would have to be driven from the local communities, not from the state.

“Any solutions that are identified would have to involve the irrigation communities because they are a key component of what you accomplish in the river,” he said. “Ultimately, we would like to see solutions focused on the four counties (covered by the study.)”

Joe Frank, manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, which includes the same four counties as the SPMP study, again stressed the need to coordinate the SPMP with the results of a CWCB-funded study of storage possibilities on the South Platte River.

“I think that has to be an important part of it, how do we tie flood mitigation to storage,” he said.

Morgan County Commissioner Jim Zwetzig asked how the panel thought the necessary coalition might form. Brian Murphy, project director for CDM Smith of Denver, the contractor on the flood study, said the stakeholder coalition for what is called the Middle South Platte Master Plan, done on a 20-mile stretch of the South Platte from St. Vrain Creek to the confluence with the Big Thompson River, didn’t begin to form until the late stages of the study.

After the meeting Zwetzig said he thought the lower South Platte coalition would look “much different from the Middle South Platte coalition.”

“That one was 20 miles and there was a lot of municipal stuff in it, it was a lot more urban,” he said. “We’re looking at 130 miles of river with 32 (irrigation) diversions, so there will be much more of an agricultural component. Also, (Colorado Department of Transportation) and the Parks and Wildlife people will be a lot more involved.”

Donaldson said he thought the three-hour meeting had been productive and had shown stakeholders that there are information resources that can be drawn on.

Fountain Creek district update: RFP on the way for first project

Fountain Creek erosion via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tommy Purfield):

As part of the 1041 permit for SDS, Colorado Springs is obligated to pay the Fountain Creek district $10 million per year through 2020, for a total of $50 million, which would pay for flood or erosion control measures along the creek that benefit Pueblo County. The district already has received $20 million for 2016 and 2017.

“This is the first of what we hope are many projects utilizing the money from the land-use permit for SDS for the betterment of Fountain Creek,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart, who represents the county on the Fountain Creek district. “The purpose is to do everything we can to limit the amount of flood waters, the amount of sedimentation and the amount of damage that flows south on Fountain Creek into Pueblo County.

“The Masciantonio project is the first one where we’re literally taking knowledge that we’ve gained from past experiences and applying it. If it works successfully the way the engineers think it will, it could be a model that is used all along the creek and protect lands for generations to come. We’re very excited to get the first one going.”

The district has a budget of $3 million for the project on the Masciantonio property to encompass all costs through completion.

“The district’s goal is to stop the erosion, stop the loss of farmland, reduce downstream sedimentation and improve water quality,” said Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek district.

The project on the Masciantonio property includes constructing seven bendway weirs — or rock diversionary structures — along the west bank of the creek just downstream from the mouth of Young Hollow Tributary. The weirs are intended to redirect the flow of water as it comes into the bend, slow its velocity and help redeposit sediment behind the weirs.

“As water flows over the weirs, water slows down and sediment drops out,” Small said. “It helps the creek bank build back up, weir-to-weir.”

A “bench” will be constructed at the base and abutted against the bank to anchor the weirs, which will be 7-8 feet wide at the base and run 8 feet deep into the creek bed. The length of each weir varies, to maintain a fixed radius from the center of creek flows.

“It’s a pretty prominent, stable structure,” Small said, “almost a pyramid structure.”

Although Young Hollow is dry most of the year, strong storms can cause it to run as high as 6,000 cubic feet per second, which rushes into Fountain Creek with strong force just upstream from the location of the project. Small said the placement of the first two weirs in the series of seven are important to redirecting water as it comes out of Young Hollow.

As the land above the creek slopes from west to east, a berm also will be constructed above the structure to prevent erosion from the back side of the bank.

“Rains get pretty heavy down there and it doesn’t take a whole lot to start the damage again,” Small said.

Small hopes to complete the competitive bid process and have a contract in place by June. Work could start in July, with the weir structures, and their required large rocks, accounting for the bulk of construction. Flow conditions on Fountain Creek will factor heavily into when work can be conducted and how long the project may take to complete.

The last stage of the project will include revegetation along the bank with the planting of cottonwood and willow along and above the “bench,” which likely will take place next March. The roots will help anchor soils and rocks, providing another layer of protection against erosion.

Final decision made for Cherry Creek Dam Water Control Plan Modification Study

Cherry Creek Dam looking south

Here’s the release from the Army Corps of Engineers (Katie Seefus):

In October 2015, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District began studying modifications to the Cherry Creek Dam Water Control Plan. A water control plan outlines predetermined regulation requirements for federally authorized project purposes.

Historically, Cherry Creek Dam has been regulated as a system with Bear Creek Dam and Chatfield Dam targeting a maximum flow of 5,000 cfs at the South Platte River at Denver, Colorado streamgage to mitigate flood risk in Denver, Colorado.

The purpose of the Cherry Creek Dam Water Control Plan Modification Study (WCPMS) was to reduce the potential risk of overtopping and failure of Cherry Creek Dam during extreme flooding events by releasing more water from the dam while limiting exposure to potential downstream damages.

The Cherry Creek Dam WCPMS analyzed the impacts due to six release alternatives and recommended an alternative that requires Cherry Creek Dam releases of 7,000 cfs if the reservoir reaches elevation 5590 feet Project Datum (PD), which is 24 feet higher than the record pool set in 1973.

Evacuating flood water from Cherry Creek Reservoir at an accelerated rate reduced the risk of overtopping and failure during an extreme rain event and resulted in minimal incremental downstream damage following single rain events that have limited rainfall downstream of the dam. Some risk of additional downstream damage is possible if releasing during subsequent storm events, however, due to the uncertainty in forecasting a thunderstorm’s intensity, duration, and location, the risk is outweighed by the need to release flood water and reduce the risk of Cherry Creek Dam’s overtopping and failure.

Public and agency meetings were held in January 2016 and again in September 2016 to collect and discuss comments from agencies and the public. All comments were resolved by December 2016 following a comment extension in November 2016. The environmental analysis resulted in a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) in March 2017.

Effective April 2017, the Cherry Creek Dam, Chatfield Dam, and Bear Creek Dam water control plans were modified to reflect a 7,000 cfs release from Cherry Creek Dam if the reservoir reaches elevation 5590 feet. Releases from Chatfield Dam and Bear Creek Dam were not increased in the updated water control plans.

Background: The Cherry Creek Dam project was authorized in the 1940s for the primary purpose of mitigating flood risk to the downstream city of Denver from floods originating on Cherry Creek above Cherry Creek Dam. Cherry Creek Dam and Reservoir is located on Cherry Creek, 11.4 miles southeast of its confluence with the South Platte River in Aurora, Colo.

The final Cherry Creek Dam WCPMS report and the updated Cherry Creek Dam, Chatfield Dam, and Bear Creek Dam Water Control Plans are available below:


S.W. #Colorado flooding of 1911

Durango flood of 1911 river scene. Photo credit Center of Southwest Studies, Fort Lewis College.

Here’s Part 1 of a look back at the 1911 flooding along the Dolores River from June Head and Joyce Lawrence writing for The Cortez Journal. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

About Oct. 8, it was reported that the course of the river east of Dolores changed to the other side of town, turning toward the bottom of Dunlap Hill. The Montezuma Journal on Oct. 12 stated that nearly every bridge in this whole region was gone. The railroad track from Dolores to Rico was washed out, taking out the bridge at Ophir loop again, and there were no present indications of getting freight over the railroad for at least two weeks.

Cortez has been without mail for a week, but it was hoped that a pack train may be put in action from Ouray to Durango until the railroads could be repaired.

Dolores was wholly under water for a time, and the damage there is great. The Mancos Times Tribune on Oct. 13 reported, “The floods that had been raging were widespread and one of the most disastrous that had been visited upon this section since its occupation by the white man.” The newspaper also reported the town of Dolores was flooded by from 1 to 5 feet of water, the town was strewn with wreckage, and train service from Durango to Silverton and between Dolores and Rico would not be restored for “many weeks at best.”

No mail reached Mancos for almost a week from any point except Durango. The area of the flood district covered the San Juan County in Colorado and New Mexico, the San Luis Valley and parts of the Western Slope. “The rivers on the rampage dealing destruction to public and private property are the San Miguel, Dolores, Mancos, La Plata, Animas, Pine, Piedra, San Juan, Navajo and Chama and the Rio Grande tributaries in San Luis valley and a number of streams in the southeastern part of the state,” the newspaper reported.

Here’s Part 2 of the series:

The Cortez area
A bad storm hit Cortez on July 10, 1911, when a storm came in and washed out the flumes, laterals and much of the irrigation system. A wall of water took off down McElmo Creek and cut a canyon within a canyon. Whole orchards and wheat fields were washed out into Utah, according to the History of Cortez website.

In 1911, it was reported that at least two homes were lost. The home of Elsworth Porter went down McElmo Creek. This house was located near the present Battlerock School. After J. D. Lamb lost a house on McElmo Creek that flooded out he hired Peter Baxstrom to build a nice new structure which is located at 12764 County Road G. Both the house on McElmo Creek and the house on Road G may have been stage stops.

The Mancos Valley
More rain and high water came as a result of the storms in the Mancos area on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 1911. The Mancos River rose that night and continued to rise all day Thursday until beginning to subside that night, according to The Mancos Times-Tribune on Oct. 6, 1911. The raging torrent brought down quantities of drift wood, trees, logs and anything that was loose. This caused the river to change its channel in many places. In town, it cut in above the post office building threatening, its safety and taking away part of the warehouse belonging to the Mancos Mercantile Co., which had been cut loose from the other building in order to save balance of the structure. In the lower side, the water got the better of the fight made by Nate Bowen to save his premises when a large portion of the water broke through direct onto his house, the Times-Tribune reported. It was saved from complete destruction by trees that grew just above the building which collected a drift and saved his building…

Pagosa Springs
The Pagosa Springs Sun on Oct. 6, 1911 stated that Archuleta County was the victim of the devastating flood the day before. “All county bridges were out,” the newspaper said. “Following the flood, a cable was suspended across the river to provide a way for people to cross the river and a way for food to be passed to the other side. The Sun also reported that 10 to 15 residences were destroyed, and 40 to 50 others were damaged.

The electric plant and train tracks were washed out. Two lives were lost in the flooding when the men were attempting to clear drift wood that had lodged above their shop on Mill Creek. Farmers, ranchers and sheep men all suffered great loss as a result of the flood. Areas surrounding the town were also affected.

The Animas Valley
The Salida Record newspaper reported that on Oct. 20, 1911, the it would cost $50,000 to $100,000 to repair the damage to the Rio Grande Southern railway in Ouray.

The Aspen Democrat-Times reported on Oct. 9, 1911, that “Floods Sweep Country in Vicinity of Durango.” In Hesperus, miners saved the town by dynamiting a new channel for the river, thus diverting the current. The town of Arboles was obliterated, and not all of the 50 inhabitants had been accounted for.

The Geological Survey reported that 13.6 inches of rain fell Oct. 4-6, 1911, caused the highest flood on record on the Animas River. The Durango Evening Herald on Oct. 6, 1911, stated that conditions in the Animas River Valley were serious: Parts of the valley were flooded to a depth of 3 to 6 feet. Many families had to move to higher ground for safety. Animas Valley from Trimble Springs to Durango “resembled one big lake.” There was general destruction of crops, roads, ditches. The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad tracks were seriously damaged.

#Colorado Springs: Flood mitigation and restoration on Camp Creek

Camp Creek channel via City of Colorado Springs

From KOAA.com (Zach Thaxton):

A group of around a half dozen southeastern Colorado water and wildlife leaders toured Phase One of a three-phase improvement project on flood-damaged Camp Creek in Garden of the Gods Wednesday. The tour was part of the two-day Arkansas Valley River Basin Water Forum, happening in Colorado Springs. The group observed part of the Camp Creek Stream Stabilization Project, which was completed last fall as Phase one of the Camp Creek Drainage Improvement Project.

“They’re protecting the channel and providing storage for stormwater, so that will benefit the community down below,” said Gary Bostrom with the Southeast Colorado Water Conservancy District. The $1 million project is designed to channel floodwater coming out of Queens Canyon, ravaged during 2012’s Waldo Canyon Fire, through Garden of the Gods and into the Camp Creek channel along 31st Street in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood. Flooding in 2015 spread coarse sediment through the northern section of the park, destroying trails.

Phase Two of the project is construction of an $8.5 million detention basin below The Navigators. “The detention facility is a huge part of holding back flows and making the lower reach much more safe,” said Richard Mulledy, Water Resources Engineering Division manager for the City of Colorado Springs. Construction on the basin is set to begin in late 2017 following the conclusion of monsoon season.

Phase Three includes rebuilding of the 31st Street channel and making landscaping improvements and adding sidewalks and bicycle paths. View details of the entire project HERE.