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Colorado Springs, El Paso County prepare for flash flooding season

Progress made on several common flood areas

Colorado Springs area officials seek to improve flash flooding prevention

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Siferd Boulevard and Tia Juana Street in Colorado Springs are among the most familiar areas prone to flash flooding during rainstorms.

Other areas are Motor City and 8th Street.  But the city and El Paso County said Monday that they are taking steps to address flooding in those areas.

The intersection of Siferd at Date Street regularly floods because it's in a low-lying area beside a drainage channel.  A large sign warns drivers to stay out of the intersection during rainy weather.

Tim Biolchini, the city's coordinator of stormwater projects, said the only option at present is to build gates around the intersection to keep vehicles out during flooding.

"We need to purchase a few of the properties in there -- the vacant lots where that water flows through -- and either close down that intersection permanently or find another solution where we can pass the water under the intersection so it's safe," he said.  "How expensive? On the order of $20 million."

Biolchini said relocating utility lines in that area would contribute to the cost.

Another familiar flooding area is on Tia Juana, near Platte Avenue, where drivers have had to be rescued when their vehicles were trapped.

"It took some small fixes here and there to improve the drainage in that area," he said.  

The city also plans to start two projects soon that will address flooding at the bottom of steep hills along 8th Street and in Motor City.

"On 8th Street, the hills are so steep that flooding deposits sediment that has to be removed," he said. "One of the businesses in Motor City always gets flooded from runoff when it rains."

Biolchini said the city has built five retention basins over the past few years to help prevent flash flooding.

The city is in the process of a 20-year commitment to finish 71 stormwater projects at a cost of $450 million -- financed by a voter-approved stormwater fee -- as it waits to learn its penalty for losing a federal lawsuit filed by the EPA, the state and Pueblo County.

The plaintiffs in that case argued that the city has long fallen short in its stormwater responsibilities.

Meanwhile, the county is in the final stages of recovery from damaging flash floods in 2013 and a hailstorm last summer.

"Our next step is preparing for a (July 1) change in our requirements for our federal stormwater permit," said Scot Cuthbertson, the county's executive director of public works.  "We've hired, for the first time, dedicated stormwater inspectors.  They're now on hand, they're going through training, they're properly equipped and they will start doing periodic reviews and inspections of all of our stormwater assets."

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