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200 culverts, bridges may need repairs to withstand flooding

200 culverts and bridges may need repairs to withstand flood

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - An engineer with El Paso County said Thursday 200 culverts and bridges and 38 miles of drainage may need improvements to withstand flash flooding in the wake of the Black Forest Fire.

Culverts and bridges in the Kettle Creek watershed have been damaged or destroyed by heavy debris and flash flooding that's hit the area because of June's wildfire.

El Paso County Engineer André Brackin meet with Natural Resources Conservation Service and a representative from FEMA Thursday to see if the county qualifies for federal money to foot the bill for the extensive repair project in the watershed.

Brackin knew his team would be busy after the Black Forest fire. He initially thought there were 30 culverts that needed to be fixed. His team has spent weeks analyzing flood patterns and the watershed's current infrastructure to handle water flow. Engineers pinpointed around 200 culverts and bridges as well as 38 miles of drainage that could need improvements to handle flash flood waters.

"It's not just culverts. We need to look at basically the surface conditions and probably put the same structures in place in the Black Forest area as we are up in Waldo Canyon," said Brackin.

Brackin's initial estimates on the project's costs are around $8.4 million.   

Shoup road's culvert needs to be upsized because during heavy rains water washes over the road. Brackin said it's a matter of time before the road and culvert washes out with the rain.The estimated cost to repair that culvert on Shoup Road is $1 million.

"Culverts are unfortunately one very small part. You have to look at the entire watershed.  You have to look at the entire burn area," said Brackin.

June's wildfire burned in the Kettle Creek watershed. Many culverts and bridges in the area weren't built to handle flash flooding in the fire's wake. Casey Ln's culvert collapsed in a flash flood Aug. 4. It took out the culvert and left a massive hole in the road.

'We're taking those fire flows, applying them to the current system and looking at how vastly undersized our current system is," said Brackin.

The county hopes to start repairing some of the area's most vulnerable culverts in September.

"I think the weather is behind us now.  We aren't as concerned about big storms at this time of the year as we were a month ago so we may be gaining some time on mother nature here to get some of these structure in," said Brackin.

The county plans to target undersized culverts under Shoup Road and damaged culverts on Black Forest Road first.


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