Fountain Creek cleanup projects on hold until fall

Fountain Creek flood debris May 2014 via The Pueblo Chieftain
Fountain Creek flood debris May 2014 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Projects to clean up Fountain Creek will resume this fall, after danger of flooding has subsided.

At least two projects are anticipated. One would remove debris from the channel between Eighth Street and Colorado 47, while the other would reconstruct the access road and embankment on a side detention pond behind the North Side Walmart.

“Getting debris out of the channel is the first priority,” said Jeff Bailey, Pueblo stormwater manager. “The debris that gets in there can cause havoc, and it’s the reason we lost the embankment.”

Work will have to wait until water goes down and there’s less danger of flooding.

“We’re in the flood season, and you don’t want to have equipment sitting in the creek if something happens,” Bailey said. “Also, in the summer, the vegetation is thick and your equipment can overheat. We’ll wait until the flows go down.”

The city has started cleaning up debris north of the Colorado 47 bridge, in order to reduce the chances that the detention pond could be further damaged. Some of the trees obstructing the Eighth Street bridge also were removed, although sediment still is clogging portals under the bridge.

The dredging will get a boost from a $279,000 project funded by Pueblo County, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Pueblo County and the Lower Ark are chipping in $100,000 each; Fountain, $74,000; and the state $5,000.

The project is the brainchild of Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district, and is similar to a project at North La Junta on the Arkansas River. The idea is to temporarily clear the channel at relatively little cost.

“It shouldn’t cost millions of dollars for routine maintenance,” Winner said. “What we will find, if we can get rid of the debris, is that we will pass the water through more quickly without flooding and get the water downstream to farmers.”

Long-term projects can be more costly, such as the Army Corps of Engineers’ $750,000 project to fortify Fountain Creek at the railroad tracks near 13th Street. That project rebuilt an earlier $500,000 project that began to wash out during last year’s floods. The detention pond and a sediment collector that were installed in 2011 as demonstration projects cost $1.5 million and are not working well.

Bailey is not sure how $3 million in payments over three years from Colorado Springs Utilities would be used. Under the April stormwater agreement between Colorado Springs and Pueblo County, the money is available if it is matched by the city of Pueblo. Pueblo can use $1.8 million previously paid to the county by Utilities for its share of the match.

“I have a pretty good idea of the types of projects: to recertify the levee, and for removal of debris, vegetation and silt,” Bailey said. “I want to make darned sure we’re using it for the purposes it was intended for in the right way.”

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