Camp Creek fix called ‘critical’ in draft 5-year plan for storm drainage

       A major overhaul of Pleasant Valley's Camp Creek ditch is part of a new five-year list of stormwater drainage projects that city engineers are drafting. The list is scheduled for presentation to City Council at a workshop session this month.
       The city has no certain strategy yet for what shape the overhaul will take, according to Colorado Springs Stormwater Engineer Ken Sampley. He termed it an “ongoing process.” One idea that's being looked at is replacing the cracking concrete channel with rip-rap, to make it “more aesthetic,” he said. He did not have a cost estimate for such work, but “the bottom line is we'll need a lot of money.”
       The preliminary stormwater drainage list estimates the cost at $10.7 million. No funding sources are immediately known, but one idea that's being floated is a “stormwater enterprise fund” that could fix Camp Creek and other list-identified “critical, immediate and high-priority” drainage projects (total cost $76.8 million).
       Camp Creek flows out of Rock Ledge Ranch. Its water is confined to a concrete channel for about a mile between the north and south traffic lanes on 31st Street from Chambers Way to Bijou Street. Near Bijou, the creek disappears into an underground pipe to Fountain Creek.
       Other Westside projects on the “critical” list are new bridges for 8th and 21st Street over Fountain Creek ($8.8 million), upgrades to the King Street detention pond ($327,000) and a new outfall for the 19th Street detention pond ($245,000). Improvements to Fountain Creek upstream of 21st Street are also on that list, as part of an $18 million pricetag that also includes work at the creek's confluence with Monument Creek.
       A citizen task force has been working with the city since June to brainstorm ideas for a possible separate authority that would focus on drainage issues and for ways to fund the needed work, according to Jim Fenimore, president of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), who is also a task force member.
       “This problem is huge,” he said. “We're even looking at a regional thing, because anything up above us is part of the problem - Woodland Park, Monument. As all that stuff is being developed, there are more hard surfaces, meaning there's more water coming down. But a regional solution will mean a lot of legalities and a lot of citizens that want to have input. It'll probably take a couple of years. So what we want to do is get something going right now in Colorado Springs so we can take care of ourselves.”
       Part of that effort is going toward the City Council workshop Sept. 20. “We'll try to get their blessings so we can take another step forward,” Fenimore said.
       An idea for Camp Creek that's been proposed by City Council member Scott Hente is to put the water underground - piping it into a box culvert between Chambers and Bijou.
       “It's an alternative that could be looked at,” Sampley said, but added his belief that “an open channel is probably the most cost- effective.”
       The Pleasant Valley Neighborhood Association has not presented a formal suggestion of its own. At the same time, no neighborhood groundswell has arisen favoring Hente's plan - there are concerns this could open the door to the long-dreaded four-laning of 31st Street. The area has also resisted previous city suggestions to widen the creek because that would move traffic closer to the houses on 31st Street and possibly eliminate on-street parking.
       One neighborhood idea is to eliminate the cement bottom (existing only south of the Fontmore Road bridge) and let the creekbed return to its natural state. In any event, no decision will be made without neighborhood meetings, according to city officials.
       Continued replacement of the channel's concrete slabs is not a cheap alternative. As an example, the city work that replaced a few slabs and reinforced the Water Street bridge earlier this year cost $89,000. No one has an exact count of the number of slabs along the channel, but it's safe to say it's in the hundreds. And a number of these were cobbled together from recycled concrete many years ago, according to Kim Karr, a stormwater engineer who's been with the city for 29 years.
       Many of the ditch's side slabs are cracked in multiple places, with weeds coming through (although the city did its annual mowing in late July). Much of the concrete-bottom segment is not visible, having been covered over time by dirt and vegetation.
       Camp Creek used to follow a natural, meandering course, but it was straightened and channelized in the development of the Pleasant Valley subdivision in the 1950s and '60s.

Westside Pioneer article