Article courtesy of John Fryar | February 25, 2014 | Times-Call | Shared as educational material
Boulder County has identified more than 200 locations where snow runoff and flood debris could cause new rounds of flooding this spring.
While it could cost as much as $14 million to remove debris from public and privately owned properties and stabilize stream banks to reduce spring and summer flooding risks, the county has only about $3.5 million in its 2014 budget, officials said Tuesday.
“The bottom line is, we need a bunch of money in order to accomplish this mitigation,” Sheriff Joe Pelle told Boulder County commissioners. “We need that funding and we need it badly.”
The commissioners and their staff have been striving to get financial help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other sources.
Boulder County is “obviously trying to shake the tree for all possible sources of funding,” said Commissioner Elise Jones.
Commissioner Deb Gardner said, “We need the money to make it happen, and we’re working on it all day, every day.”
Pelle and Mike Chard, director of Boulder County’s Office of Emergency Management, presented the commissioners with the latest update of a county “Threat Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment” study, which outlines steps that have been and are being taken to try to prevent new flooding.
The ground near the streams is saturated and likely to remain so through 2015, reducing its ability to absorb some of the water from the streams, Chard said. The mountain snowpack is at about 150 percent of normal, with March and April — typically the snowiest months — still ahead, he added.
The region’s reservoirs are at capacity and will spill over their dams earlier than usual this year, causing higher stream flow during spring runoff and thunderstorms, he said.
The floods left behind deposits of sand, gravel, trees and brush that could create mini-dams and cause flooding behind them during spring runoffs or even during heavy thunderstorms; further damage could occur downstream, as well, when those mini-dams burst.
In some locations, the floods also eroded and weakened creek and river banks.
Officials are now prioritizing which streams to target with whatever money turns out to be available.
Boulder County has assigned “threat levels” to 208 sites it’s identified as flood risks. Level 1 locations, about 90 of the total, are those with a high risk unless work is done on them. Level 4 sites can await further evaluation after the spring runoff.
The county assessments have found 43 locations where bank stabilization is needed; 94 where debris removal would reduce risks; and three where berms should be built to hold back water.
Spring runoff is about 30 to 60 days away, Chard noted.
Officials also are considering how best to warn communities about possible flash flooding, as well as how to coordinate emergency evacuations, sheltering and temporary housing.
While any spring or summer flooding wouldn’t be anywhere close to the magnitude of disaster that struck Boulder County in September, someone whose home is destroyed could still consider it “a once-in-a-million-year event,” Chard said.