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Report gives El Paso County new stormwater information

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Dec 31 2013 08:44:24 PM CST

Results of a study provide new information about which improvement projects are most needed.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

Many of the proposed solutions to the area's ongoing drainage issues remain in the discussion phase, but local leaders insist progress is being made.

El Paso County Commissioner Amy Lathen said an example of that progress came Tuesday when the consulting firm of CH2MHill revealed the findings of a report on the county's stormwater needs.

Lathen said the report adds new information to what county and Colorado Springs leaders have gathered during the past 18 months about the area's backlog of projects.

"As to how it relates to the city drainage, county drainage and the entire region -- and what needs to be fixed first and what really poses a great risk," she said.  "This is the study we needed to make decisions based on the actual science."

Lathen said commissioners, the Colorado Springs City Council and other municipalities are working together to determine how to pay for improvements that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, as well as prioritize those projects.

Financing suggestions, she said, include a user fee and possibly even allowing voters to decide the issue.  A task force consisting of city, county and regional leaders has been studying the matter but has yet to identify a funding source.

Pueblo has been pressuring the Colorado Springs area to solve its drainage woes because those problems ultimately flow south and negatively affect Pueblo.

Leaders also will continue seeking public feedback, Lathen said, in an ongoing series of public meetings. 

Of the 275 projects on the county's master list, nearly half -- 128 -- are for improvements in culverts and on bridges. 

The projects that received the highest priority are the Security Creek Channel, Fisher's Canyon near B Street and the Siferd Boulevard culvert in the Park Vista area.

The study also placed a high priority on projects that benefit more than one jurisdiction, such as the Siferd culvert, Fountain Creek near the U.S. 24 bypass and Fountain Creek near the confluence of Spring Creek.

Lathen said the study also factors in drainage needs related to the recent wildfires in Waldo Canyon and Black Forest, which previous studies did not include.

"And look at the flooding we just had in the Cheyenne Creek area," she said.  "No one factored that in, either, because no one expected it."

Commissioner Darryl Glenn said the biggest challenge regarding stormwater issues faced by local leaders is to convince residents that the situation affects everyone, regardless of whether they believe it does.

"That's a long-term public education program," he said.  "I haven't seen any of the previous reports touch on that.  If people don't understand that and agree with it, you'll never get funding support for it."

Lathen asked citizens for patience as local leaders continue to determine the best strategy to address drainage needs that have been neglected for decades.

"We still have a lot of work to do," she said.

Colorado Springs and El Paso County continue to budget for several drainage improvement projects each year.

"We have to do them gradually," she said.  "We can't tear up the entire system at once and rebuild it."

The county's study consultant also conducted a similar study for Colorado Springs.  Lathen said the county's study cost around $225,000.

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