Fountain Creek: Stormwater needs through Colorado Springs and El Paso County could total $1 billion

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Stormwater needs in the Colorado Springs area could total more than $1 billion, while less than $10 million annually in funding is available from year to year. “This is not going to get done overnight,” said Springs Councilwoman Brandy Williams. “It took 30 years to get here, and I hope it won’t take 30 years to get out.”

An El Paso County stormwater task force Thursday reviewed a partial list of about 500 capital projects in the Fountain Creek watershed with a price tag of more than $760 million, along with annual estimated maintenance needs of $7.5 million annually. The list includes incorporated areas and military bases, and does not factor in a possible $180 million more in projects in unincorporated El Paso County. It will be finalized at the task force’s final meeting in January. Colorado Springs has the greatest need, with $684 million in capital projects and $4.9 million in annual maintenance, while Fountain needs $46 million and the Air Force Academy $24.5 million in construction.

“We will have identified $1 billion in needs and have only about $10 million budgeted,” said Tim Mitros, stormwater engineer for Colorado Springs. “What we’re going to have to look at in phase II is where the money is coming from.” Some concrete structures are more than 50 years old and reaching the end of their usefulness. New methods of controlling flooding are being explored, he added.

The meeting also addressed the need for Colorado Springs to control its stormwater in order to turn on the $986 million Southern Delivery System. When SDS was approved by the Bureau of Reclamation and Pueblo County commissioners, a stormwater enterprise was in place. Stormwater funding is just one part of the requirement, said Mark Pifher, a Colorado Springs Utilities executive. The other major piece is a drainage criteria manual, which should be completed by the city of Colorado Springs next spring. “Our hope is that the drainage criteria manual will allow no increase in flows from new development, which would assure that conditions of the permit are met,” Pifher said.

More coverage of Colorado Springs’ rehab work required by the Waldo Canyon Fire, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

Colorado Springs Utilities will spend about $12 million reinforcing pipelines below Rampart Reservoir, already starting to wash out because of the Waldo Canyon Fire last summer. “Flood flows out of the area are greater than they were before the fire,” said Mark Shea, watershed planning supervisor for Colorado Springs Utilities. He made his comments at a stormwater task force meeting Thursday.

The severity of flooding is 4 to 10 times worse, even for small storms and swells dry creeks to the point where they overflow their banks. Roads and bridges can be washed out as additional sediment clogs drainages.

A back­up water supply main runs from Rampart Reservoir, north of the city, where 80 percent of Colorado Springs water is stored. While the reservoir itself will need some rehabilitation, the supply line is of paramount importance, Shea said. Another $25 million to $50 million will have to be spent to protect other parts of Colorado Springs where mud flows are likely in the wake of the fire.

Ultimately, the sediment would find its way into Monument and Fountain creeks, creating problems for Colorado Springs at its wastewater treatment plant, landowners on Fountain Creek and Pueblo County. The ash from the fire already has caused water quality problems for downstream water users.

The fire started June 23 and burned more than 18,000 acres, destroyed 350 homes and took two lives before it burned out in July. About 10,600 acres suffered moderate to high damage. Threequarters of the land is in the National Forest, but the impacts of flooding will be felt by area property owners.

Based on the experience of the Hayman Fire in 2002, it could be years before the worst effects of the fire show up. So far, mulch of straw and wood chips has been spread on the most damaged hillsides to try to stem erosion.

More Fountain Creek Watershed coverage here and here.

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