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Ute Pass flood prevention project nears completion

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Jul 18 2013 08:03:15 PM CDT

Designed to keep floodwater and debris from Waldo Canyon burn scar off U.S. 24 in Cascade.

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. -

It was last July that the first flash flood from the Waldo Canyon burn scar closed U.S. 24 in Ute Pass, and a project to prevent future flooding is almost finished.

You can see the work being done as you drive along the highway, across from the Eagle's Nest Wellness Center.  The Colorado Department of Transportation is removing excess dirt, building concrete structures to trap sediment, upgrading culverts and installing a second drainage pipe.

CDOT spokesman Dave Watt said the project will reduce flooding by improving drainage into Fountain Creek, and protect the highway from heavy runoff and debris.

"Our improvements seem to be helping," he said.  "As we finish them, we hope it'll be even safer.  Again, it should be another two weeks.  But so far, we have not had major slides in those areas like we did last summer."

Lono Ho'ala, the owner of the Wellness Center, said he's glad the work is being done but is skeptical about its effectiveness.

"I don't think they're aware of how much water comes off that mountain," he said.  "The last flood we had last week dang near washed away that concrete wall.  When you see the amount of water that's coming off that, I think that thing is a waste of money."

Watt said the project should be finished by mid-August.  CDOT is spending $2 million on several flood mitigation projects through Ute Pass, he said, and all should be finished by September.

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