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El Paso County seeks solutions to Black Forest flooding

Published On: Jul 30 2013 06:21:51 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 30 2013 07:28:38 PM CDT

County working on a report to specify costs, projects.

BLACK FOREST, Colo. -

The latest flood damage from the Black Forest burn scar has El Paso County officials scrambling for immediate and long-term solutions.

Monday's flash flooding may have been the worst yet since the wildfire last month.  In addition to high water closing several roads and leaving a trail of debris on public and private property, many unpaved private roads eroded.  The erosion was so extensive that homeowners had a hard time getting into or out of their properties.

Amanda Davis of Crosses For Losses, a volunteer organization that provided sandbags for residents last weekend, said her staff was helping affected residents who live along the private roads.  Many residents, she said, lost homes in the fire and are still trying to salvage any remaining belongings.

"We've been digging people out, we've been driving people back in," she said.  "But their belongings are washing down the roads.  It's nearly impossible to drive on (roads).  These people maintained the roads with their own equipment, but most of it was destroyed in the fire."

Alan Havens said he was unable to return to his property until Tuesday morning because of flood damage.  The fire destroyed his home but he's living in a camper parked on his property -- very near to where the floodwater flowed.

"We've been flooded before but not like this," he said.  "I didn't think it was that much of a rain that could do this this kind of damage."

Andre Brackin, head engineer for the county, said until emergency funding arrives, his crews can only continue to close flooded roads and clean up afterward.

"There are no real projects identified yet," he said.  "But we do have a number of big plans in the works that involve additional funding, grants and federal money to help restoration efforts."

Brackin said part of the plans include finding which areas have the most need for drainage improvements.  The fire has left many areas unable to handle run-off as they once could.

"We're looking at a number of locations where we're going to have to pull culverts that are crushed, bent, torn up or just corroded out, and replace them.  So that's coming, too," he said.

Another problem for residents along unpaved private roads is the county isn't responsible for maintaining those roads.  But that could change.

"If there are emergencies in a life safety situation, we can go in," said Brackin.

The county is working on a damage services report that will evaluate the value and flood risk on public and private properties along drainage areas.  Brackin said the report, due to be finished sometime in August, will help officials determine the actual cost of repairs and restoration.

Ultimately, Brackin said Black Forest will require a similar system of sediment traps and retention basins being planned to reduce flood damage around the Waldo Canyon burn scar.

For Black Forest residents who need sandbags, materials are available the Crosses for Losses office located at the intersection of Black Forest and Shoup roads.  Davis said sandbags that were placed before Monday's flood helped limit damage in some areas but were ineffective in the most-flooded areas.

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