People, ideas in abundance at 1st Camp Creek confab

       An estimated 175 people trooped into the Coronado High cafeteria Oct. 22 for the first public meeting on how to fix the Camp Creek drainage.

As a late arrival signs in (foreground), the crowd of about 175 citizens listens during introductory comments at the initial Camp Creek Drainage Improvement Project public meeting Oct. 22 in the Coronado High School cafeteria.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Afterward, Mike Chaves, the city's lead engineer on the project, said he believed people are especially interested as a result of the rains this summer (when the creek rose much higher than usual, left a bridge unusable at Rock Ledge Ranch and deposited an alluvial fan of sediment between the Garden of the Gods and Glen Eyrie).
       “It was a good turnout,” said Susan Watkins, part of the Wilson & Company consultant team that City Engineering brought on for the planning effort. “I hope we can keep all those people engaged.”
       They'll get a chance at the next public meeting Dec. 12, when engineers/ consultants have pledged to return with alternatives for citizen review.
       Attendees at the two-hour meeting Oct. 22 gave the planning team plenty to think about, including a request that until construction money becomes available the city should at least clear out Pleasant Valley's ditch and culverts on a regular basis; skepticism about the 100-year-flood flow rate (engineers already suspect that the rate used for the federal insurance program is too fast); a wish to know more about the creek's tributaries; concern about the lack of exits for residents west of 31st Street in the event of a major flood; a call for mitigation measures upstream in Queen's Canyon; a proposal for higher cross-channel bridges through Pleasant Valley to allow larger culverts; and, if the channel has to be widened, a suggestion to incorporate bike lanes into it to save space.
       The planning effort is funded by city stormwater dollars. The city intent is to have “preferred alternative(s)” for Camp Creek by February. In the meantime, the project team is searching for funds to cover construction costs that studies have tentatively set at nearly $15 million. Although the analysis only recently got started, engineers have previously noted that the ditch and its culverts in Pleasant Valley lack the capacity to handle a 100-year storm. Also, according to a meeting handout, “the concrete lining in portions of the channel in 31st Street is in poor condition and requires frequent repairs.”
       The purpose of the planning effort, as stated in a PowerPoint slide presentation in the first part of the meeting, is to develop “thoughtfully planned short- and long-term solutions [that] protect the corridor from flooding and erosion, improve public safety, are technically sound, are responsive to community needs and values and are sensitive to special characteristics of Garden of the Gods Park and Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site.”
       One grant has already been applied for, it was revealed - a request for $4 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The identified use would be “capacity enhancement” in the area between Fontanero and Echo Lane/Bijou Street, where potential impacts on homes in a major flood are seen as the worst along the entire 31st Street ditch.
       An introductory over-view by the project team discussed the uncertainty about the 100-year flow rate (which affects how much residents in Pleasant Valley must pay for flood insurance). Camp Creek's rate, as established by FEMA, is 4,600 cubic feet per second (cfs). But during the summer storms the stream gauge readings were just 316 cfs in Queen's Canyon and 286 cfs at Gateway Road, a PowerPoint slide showed.
       The team's overview stated other facts that “we think we know.” One was that “increased channel degradation [is] likely”; another was that the “Waldo Canyon Fire has created a new 'normal' [involving] increased runoff, additional sediment and more debris.”
       The next slide in the PowerPoint was titled: “What we still need to analyze.” Under this heading were “hydrology (how much water), channel hydraulics (how deep and fast the water flows), quantity of sediment, environmental issues, safety, community issues and others.”
       In keeping with the meeting format, people broke out informally into subgroups for about 45 minutes, after which a representative from each came forward. It was from these brief presentations that the citizen comments listed earlier in this article were extracted.
       Attendees showed tolerance for each other's views, although one group's suggestion for a roundabout at Fontanero and 31st drew spontaneous rejection sounds from several people.
       Part of the subgroup mission was to consider a list of “preliminary issues” developed from 25 interviews before the meeting with “local groups and individuals with particular interest in the Camp Creek drainage corridor.” A handout at the meeting showed these as “aesthetics, community process, construction, cultural history/resources, design, flooding/drainage, funding, Garden of the Gods, history of the area, natural feel, neighborhood character, Rock Ledge Ranch, safety, tourist economy, trails, traffic/streets/ bridges, and views.
       Individuals also were asked to fill out sheets and offer ideas of their own.
       Among the meeting attendees were City Council members Don Knight and Val Snider.
       For more information, call Chaves at 385-5408 or e-mail mchaves@springsgov.com. There is also a website: springsgov.com/campcreek.

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