Will Stormwater Plan Announcement Turn Into a Neighborhood Nightmare?

Will Stormwater Plan Announcement Turn Into a Neighborhood Nightmare?

Storm warning! At 4:30 p.m. today, the City and County of Denver will announce the location for its stormwater detention area, part of the Platte to Park Hill: Stormwater Systems program, which is focused on improving flood protection in communities north and east of downtown. But the city has already been flooded with complaints from residents who could be affected by the project, as detailed in Alan Prendergast's recent cover story, "Is Denver's Stormwater Fix an Engineer's Dream — or a Neighborhood's Nightmare?"

The proposal is intended to help control storm runoff in the northeast part of the city — water that flows north and west from Fairmount Cemetery through the Montclair, Park Hill, Cole and Whittier neighborhoods to Elyria, Swansea, Globeville and ultimately the South Platte River. The $134 million undertaking is being overseen by Denver’s Department of Public Works, with some financial and technical assistance from the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District. 

One component of the project is an open channel, fifteen blocks long and up to a hundred feet wide, to be dug along East 39th Avenue between Franklin and Steele streets, that would slow down heavy storm runoff headed to the river. Another key piece of infrastructure is a detention “pond,” around thirty acres in size, to be situated either in the Cole neighborhood or on the golf course.

The pond would remain dry except in the most extreme storm conditions, yet building it could require demolishing several houses in Cole — an early configuration, since rejected, would have taken out more than forty homes — or removing up to 280 of the 872 trees on the golf course. And that’s just for the first phase of the project, addressing drainage needs in the Montclair Basin; another detention pond is planned for the Park Hill Golf Course as part of drainage improvements for the Park Hill Basin.

Cole resident Kim Morse has been sounding an alarm.
Cole resident Kim Morse has been sounding an alarm.
Jim Narcy

Although the city says that the public was notified of the project back in August, Cole resident Kim Morse didn't find out about it until November, and has been alerting neighbors ever since. “The city has been selling this in a way that is very misrepresentative,” Morse told Prendergast. “The flooding occurs south of where they want to do the detention.”

The announcement of the first-phase location will be made at the Forney Museum, 4303 Brighton Boulevard, where the project’s stakeholder working group is meeting. The group includes representatives from registered neighborhood associations — but you can expect many unofficial representatives, and their lawyers, to be present, too.

Here's a city fact sheet on the project.

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