COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A three-phase stormwater project to halt erosion into Monument Creek near the Air Force Academy is underway.
Colorado Springs will spend $4 million to work on a nearly 2-mile stretch of Monument Branch, a tributary of the creek, and improve the branch channel between the creek and Voyager Parkway on the city's north side.
The work will protect utility lines and repair erosion damage from flooding caused by heavy rain in the fall of 2013 and the spring of 2015, and restore the area's natural habitat.
The branch's headwaters are in the Flying Horse subdivision, flowing between North Gate Boulevard and Interquest Parkway until it meets the creek on Academy property.
"The Flying Horse area has a retention pond for runoff but it's not enough," said Richard Mulledy, the city's stormwater manager. "There still are 200 semi truckloads of sediment from here that flow into Monument Creek each year. After this project is finished, there will be less than one truckload a year. That will greatly improve the water quality not only in Monument Creek but also in Fountain Creek."
Officials said 40 of 71 long-range city stormwater projects directly impact Monument Creek, with the city earlier this year announcing an expanded overall commitment of $460 million over 20 years.
"But we've identified 250 (areas) contributing to erosion and sedimentation in the creek," said Larry Small of the Fountain Creek Watershed District. "Monument Creek is part of the Fountain Creek watershed that's been affected by floods, storms and two fires."
Small said the projected cost to repair damage in Monument Creek is $440 million over 20 years, in conjunction with the city's own renewed stormwater commitment.
"It's going to take a while to put that much money together," he said. "And this is just one watershed. We have Upper Fountain Creek, Cheyenne Creek, Sand Creek. It's a huge problem."
The city formulated its renewed commitment to avoid a lawsuit by Pueblo County over complaints about water quality issues and the lack of a dedicated stormwater funding source, but the Environmental Protection Agency recently sued the city for previously failing to adequately address stormwater needs.
Mulledy said it's too early to determine if the Monument Branch project will help the city defend itself in the federal case.
Funding for the Monument Branch project comes from the city, Colorado Springs Utilities and the federal Natural Resource Conservation Service.
The project is scheduled for completion in 2018, with the Colorado Department of Transportation, Army Corps of Engineers and the Academy also being partners.
The project also will protect habitat for the endangered Preble's Meadow jumping mouse.