A Look At The Town’s Progress Toward Flood Recovery Part 1
The Estes Valley has come so far in recovering from the 2013 Flood that in some ways, it’s difficult to believe it’s been nearly one year. In other ways, the year has flown by and it can be overwhelming to consider how much further we have to go for total recovery. I’d like to give you an overview of where the Town stands in its progress with the many projects we’ve added to our operations. There’s a lot to cover, and this is part one of a two-part series. Next week, part two will explain how all of this affects your Town budget.
All flood recovery projects really began last fall, in the first days following the flood. We started with staff conducting detailed needs assessments of approximately 30 infrastructure projects, large and small, in our jurisdiction. We then estimated individual project costs and proceeded to seek and apply for federal, state and other funding sources to offset the Town’s recovery costs, which were outside the Town’s normal operating budget. We waited until we received confirmation of funding assistance and then partnered with other agencies as needed and began the process to hire contractors to study, design and engineer the repairs. For the infrastructure projects, that brings us up to present.
Fish Creek Infrastructure
As you know, the Town’s biggest recovery project is along the Fish Creek corridor. Of the nearly $11 million in total flood recovery costs to the Town after damages covered by insurance, approximately $6.3 million is for the Fish Creek corridor water and electric utilities, the road and public street connections, and the Town-owned portion of the Fish Creek trail. Millions of dollars more in additional Fish Creek infrastructure expenses rest with our project partners at Larimer County, Upper Thompson Sanitation District and the Estes Valley Recreation and Park District. State and Federal funding is expected to cover between 80 and 87.5 percent of the eligible project costs to offset the Town’s expenses.
Larimer County is leading the charge to repair the Fish Creek infrastructure. The project is currently in the design phase for utilities, with the design phase for roads and trails beginning this fall. We anticipate we can complete utilities construction by spring of 2015, and once that groundwork is complete, we can begin to construct the road and trail system, likely in late fall of 2015. Public input is taking place throughout this project, and it’s critical to restoring Fish Creek infrastructure in a way that best suits the community’s needs. We’re holding a second open house August 20, from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. at the Estes Park Museum, 200 Fourth Street. Please join us to hear about where we are in the process and provide us with feedback. You can also find detailed project information on the website www.FishCreekCorridorRepair.com, and submit your comments right there on the web at all times during the project.
Until we’re finished, we appreciate your patience with the temporary infrastructure that’s in place along Fish Creek. The length of the road is maintained by Larimer County, and the Town is responsible for maintaining the bridge at Scott Avenue. While it wouldn’t be a wise use of public funds to pave the road and crossing only to tear it up next year, we are doing our best to maintain them, which has been a challenge with plenty of spring and summer rain.
More Infrastructure Repairs
Scattered throughout Town limits, 27 smaller-scale road, bridge, curb and gutter, culvert and trail repair projects have already been designed. The Town has secured future reimbursement with the State of Colorado, FEMA and Federal Highway Administration where needed, for between 80 and 87.5 percent of the eligible project costs, to offset the Town’s expenses. We’re currently seeking construction bids, and if we can secure a qualified contractor, we hope to complete these repairs in the fall of 2014. The project areas include:
• Community Drive
• Fall River Road, Fall River Court
and Fall River Drive
• Brook Drive
• Brook Court
• West Elkhorn Avenue and Spruce Drive
• Cherokee Road
• Heinz Parkway
• Grey Fox Drive
• Lexington Lane
• Grand Estates
• Old Ranger Drive
• Steele Court
• Aspen Avenue
• Peacock Park, Riverside Park,
For those wondering about the Scott Ponds dam repair, it’s also included in the package of projects. However, the project design must meet current state regulations, but federal funding was only available to replace the dam as it was prior to the flood. At this time there are no guarantees, but we’ll be requesting another review of this project in hopes we can receive funding to make the repair.
Mitigation and Sustainability
The Town isn’t just seeking to repair what the flood broke, we’re also looking at what we can do better. How can we plan and build in a more sustainable way, working with our rivers? For example, we need to protect the downtown economic center of our community, which is built entirely along rivers. So we’ve been talking to businesses and we’re applying for grants to restructure our bridges downtown to reduce the risk of flooding when the water levels rise.
Another important effort toward long-term sustainability is the Town’s facilitation of the formation of the Fall River and Fish Creek coalitions to develop master plans for long-term sustainability projects in each corridor. We’ve so far received over $500,000 in grants to support the development of the master planning and related projects. Each coalition has a River Advisory Committee with neighborhood captains to facilitate more involvement in their areas. Long-term, we hope these coalitions will be entirely led by the community to advocate for the health of their rivers and neighborhoods. Final master plans are expected to be completed this fall.
Of one thing I am certain — the Town will never be the same after the flood. I believe that together we’ve grown and become stronger. This can be seen in the unfolding efforts to diversify our economy, improve our infrastructure and investments in our quality of life. Recovery won’t mean that we’re back where we were on September 11, 2013 — it will mean that we’re in a better and more sustainable position as a community moving into the future. Next week, I’ll share more updates including the budgetary challenges we’re navigating, and how good planning means the Town is remaining financially sound as it recovers from a historic crisis.
We hope to see you at the “Roadmap to Recovery” Flood Recovery Expo August 16 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the new Estes Park Event Center at the Fairgrounds at Stanley Park.