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Stormwater runoff does not respect property lines

For the Town of Estes Park, water is both an asset and a liability.

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When not managed appropriately, stormwater can damage drains, roads, structures and more.

The clean, fresh, good-tasting and abundant water that the Town provides townspeople is an essential asset for all who live, work or visit here. Should the water go away, they and the town would also likely go away.

Water from rain or snow that the ground, trees and plants don’t absorb is known as stormwater. This water is a responsibility of the Town too. Prudent management of it can prevent damage to the environment that might subsequently put townspeople at-risk.

The town trustees and I fully attend to the life sustaining water we drink and to the water that trickles down the hillside, across the roadway, and into a ditch. A brief look at the policies and practices of the Town makes this readily apparent.

Town policies require every application for a change in land use to include any possible effects on the storm water on properties downstream at the historic flow rate. A plan for mitigating such effects must be part of a proposal.

Planning for potential storm water incidents is an established practice of the Town. The Town’s Stormwater Master Plan (SMP) it an example of such planning. Updated in July 2019, SMP proposes projects for containing 0.1%

probability flood flows near river channels and reducing the new floodplain limits to pre-2013 conditions. The projects have an estimated total cost of $62 million. SMP also includes proposed fixes for 350 neighborhood flooding problems, with an estimated total cost of $17 million.

Other plans pertain to the unique challenge of stormwater that collects in large drainage basins that place developed areas of the town at-risk. They aim to reduce impact of the drainage basins on flood plains and reduce the cost of flood insurance for property owners. To undertake this sort of planning, the Town would need additional funds and personnel.

Conducting feasibility studies is another practice. For instance, a study conducted in 2018 queried property owners about the feasibility of the Town creating a stormwater utility. The study reported that 63% of respondents believe stormwater problems exist, 70% believe the Town and Larimer County should address flood risks and 71% support a using sales tax funds to cover the costs of doing so.

Another key practice is the intentional way that previous mayors and trustees and the current trustees and mayor stay focused on stormwater issues from term to term. For example, two years ago my predecessor Todd Jirsa and the trustees at the time, tabled action on a stormwater utility pending the outcome of two grant applications–one for $25 million—by the town’s Public Works Department. Neither application received funding. So, this fall the stormwater issue, including the possibly of creating a utility, will come before the current set of trustees and me for consideration.

When we are considering stormwater issues, please plan to share written comments with us about the matter. Better yet, since in-person meetings of the trustees resume August 13, please plan to join us at the Town Hall, when stormwater is on the agenda, to help us accentuate assets and mitigate liabilities.

I look forward to seeing you there.

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