Progress Delayed on CU Boulder South Flood Mitigation

Frustrated residents of south Boulder told City Council last night that immediate flood mitigation is needed to protect property and lives before there’s a repeat of the destruction that occurred during the 2013 Colorado flood. But as KGNU’s Roz Brown reports, an unexpected delay will stall forward progress for many months.

Elmar Dornberger didn’t pull any punches when he appeared before Boulder City Council to press for urgency when it comes to solving flood mitigation in south Boulder.

“I’ve been coming here for five years, and I’m really sick and tired of it. I’ve spent hundreds of hours on the subject of flood mitigation… What is going to take for you to take care of us? This is your job. Your job is to protect the citizens of this city.”

The City has studied south Boulder flood mitigation remedies at U.S. 36 and Table Mesa since the 2013 flood devastated properties, and threatened lives at the Fraiser Meadows Manor retirement community. But a solution also involves cooperation from CU, which own 300 acres there. The University wants annexation to the city to build student housing units, academic buildings and recreation fields in exchange for 80 acres of its property the city needs for flood mitigation.

Boulderite Don Cote has appeared at numerous meetings on the issue and said city council is failing its citizens.

“This city, AKA the council, is responsible for the protection of the lives and property of its citizens. Thousands of boulder citizens are located in or adjacent to high hazard flood zones… It is shocking that these citizens are still at risk of flooding.”

Kathy Joiner also reminded council of how long south Boulder citizens have been waiting for a solution.

“It’s hard to believe that after five and a half years we still don’t have a clue about when this will be completed.”

But a completion date is still far off, as a new wrinkle, or small bomb as one council member put it has dropped into the process. Council recently learned that the city has no informal or formal agreement with CDOT – the Colorado Department of Transportation to build a floodwall along the south side of U.S. 36 already included in the city’s preliminary flood mitigation designs. That led to a heated exchange between councilmember Cindy Carlisle and city attorney Tom Carr before Mayor Suzanne Jones stepped in.

“We have all of these people who are unhappy with us, and I think the staff has not done its job adequately.”
Council has narrowed designs for flood mitigation but as councilmember Lisa Morzel noted, will now need to wait to hear more from CDOT about whether it supports a wall being built in its right of way.

“We have residents who are upset because we haven’t moved forward, but we have tried to move forward as hard as we can. This letter from CDOT is imperative before we can start moving forward.”

City staff said no preliminary design work on flood mitigation has begun, and that combined with a needed response from CDOT will delay a council vote on annexation of the CU property until 2020.