Boulder placement starts in creek work

       Rubbernecking is not to be encouraged when driving along Highway 24; nonetheless, motorists might want to sneak a peek to the south over the next several weeks as work on the Fountain Creek restoration project moves forward in earnest.

ABOVE: With temporarily diverted Fountain Creek behind him, Ben Gregory, lead engineering inspector for the city, shows where the top of the armored banks will be built to withstand a 50-year flood in the creek restoration project. In the background (upper left) is Highway 24. The height of the filter fabric lying below and behind him reflects original plans for only a 10-year-flood capability. (The filter will be installed into the bank to help control any tailings migration.)
BELOW: Near the current diversion point east of 21st Street, the size of a boulder for the new creekbed can be gauged by comparison to the workers standing nearby.
Westside Pioneer photos


       After a month and a half of preliminary work - most prominently the temporary diversion of roughly a quarter-mile along the creek - large backhoes will be keying in boulders weighing about 4,000 to 5,000 pounds each to shape a new creekbed in the weeks ahead. At a minimum of 3 feet wide, 4 feet high and 3 feet long, the boulders are so big that typically no more than three of them can be carried in a single truckload, according to Ben Gregory, the City Engineering inspector for the project.
       The project area is a 3,000-foot segment at the north end of the Gold Hill Mesa development between the trailer park and just short of the Highway 24 bridge over the creek east of 21st Street. The planned result is a completely reconstructed waterway that will be fish-friendly, tailings-free and capable of withstanding up to a 50- year flood. The depth in such a cascade would be more than 9 feet deep, according to Lisa Ross, a city stormwater engineer assigned to the project.
       The restoration is a joint effort by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), which is concerned about the creek undercutting Highway 24 in that area; the City Stormwater Enterprise, which had previously identified flooding issues in that area but couldn't afford to fix them by itself; and Gold Hill Mesa, which wants to improve the creek for health and aesthetic reasons.
       The work is being done in three main phases, with the upper end first and the lower end last.
       Attaining a 50-year capacity, which will require larger stream banks, was a recent $150,000 add-on to the project, Ross said. The contract had initially been let to Colorado Structures Inc. (CSI) for about $2.3 million. Before that, the plan had been to provide just a 10-year capacity, but the CSI bid was well under the project estimate, making the added capacity affordable.
       She added that the 50-year capacity will match what was previously engineered for the Springs Community Improvements Program (SCIP) project that was completed five years ago between the trailer park and Eighth Street and up to the Highway 24 bridge over Fountain Creek east of 21st.

A heavy vehicle compacts the ground in preparation for construction of a new north creek bank this week. Photo looks upstream.
Westside Pioneer photo

       A side effect of giving the restoration project 50-year-flood capacity will be the project taking about three weeks longer than previously announced, Ross said, which would mean completion sometime in November. Also, she said, because of the expected later completion, some of the stream plantings at the lower end (Phase 3) may have to be postponed until the spring.

Westside Pioneer article