Drainage ‘backlog’ still leaves out Douglas Creek
Despite concrete failing, other issues

       As the Colorado Springs Stormwater Enterprise continues through its first year, it is just getting started on what it calls a “backlog” of drainage needs around the city estimated at nearly $300 million.
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With one of the Intel buildings in the background, multiple
missing concrete panels are evident along the Douglas Creek drainage.
Westside Pioneer photo
Farther downstream (note Intel again), a pile of panels lies where they washed down.
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       Meanwhile, as August's downpours continue, one drainage noticeably missing from the list is South Douglas Creek, where it parallels the Sinton Trail south of Garden of the Gods Road. This is despite major deterioration of the concrete channel - particularly along a roughly half-mile stretch between Arrowswest Drive and Centennial Boulevard, behind Plasmon, Intel and other industries.
       A recent channel walk-through revealed missing or broken panels, extensive cracking and trees as high as 25 feet growing through the concrete. Storm flows have even carried some of the broken panel chunks under Centennial Boulevard, to where the drainageway has been left more natural.
       “It's gotten worse, probably,” Stormwater Enterprise Director Ken Sampley said of the concrete segment, noting that the backlog list has not been updated for a couple of years. “At one point we thought we could get Street Division crews out there to do repairs. When you see things like this happening, you have to go out and look at it.”
       He noted, however, that the high-priority drainages (earmarked for the first $66 million of projects on the list) were put there for a reason. Public safety is the overriding concern, with potential property damage next.
       For instance, the concrete-lined Camp Creek drainage ditch along 31st Street is among the enterprise's top 10 projects, slated for nearly $12 million in as-yet- undefined improvements between 2009 and 2011. Yet its panels appear to be in better shape than Douglas Creek's.
       The difference is that Camp Creek's drainage flows by homes that are “still in the flood plain along that stretch,” Sampley said - which is another way of saying the drainage is undersized. Plus, there is traffic along the street and bridges that could be destroyed in a flood, he noted.
       Along the relatively isolated segment of Douglas Creek behind Garden of the Gods Road, as noted above, the only real threat is to the concrete infrastructure itself, Sampley said.
       He wasn't sure how long ago that channel went in, but said it dates back to a time when the city philosophy was to “take water at higher velocities and get it out of the community.” Downstream, east of Centennial, where the creekbed is more natural, it can be seen how the philosophy has changed. “Now we try to make the drainage channel an amenity,” Sampley said.
       But even the more natural drainage has maintenance needs, according to Philip McGrath, president of the Holland Park Community Association. In the segment that is part of the Douglas Creek Open Space (between Holland Park Boulevard and Chestnut Street), there is a large erosion gouge as well as a place where “erosion is impeding onto the bike path,” he said.
       Some Holland Park residents believe that the speed of the water through the concrete section contributes to damage in the more natural areas, McGrath said.
       As for the creek's concrete section, Sampley said it probably wouldn't be built that way now. Yet getting rid of the lining would be costly in itself. He could give no repair cost ranges until the problems have been assessed, pledging only, “That's one we'll look at.”

Westside Pioneer article