Lessons Learned After 5 years of Post-Flood Recovery Projects

Chris Sturm
Colorado Water Conservation Board
Denver, CO

In early September 2013 several days of rain caused massive flooding across Colorado’s Front Range communities. Streams reclaimed floodplains, destroyed infrastructure, and ripped vegetation from riverbanks.In total, the flood caused approximately $4 billion in damage.The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) led the effort to repair, re-align, and restore the flood affected rivers and floodplains. As the Statewide sponsor of the Natural Resources Conservation Service 2013 Phase II Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program, the CWCB was tasked with overseeing and implementing $50 million in stream recovery work. The CWCB also participated in the implementation of another $20 million in stream recovery work funded through other programs, the most notable or which was the U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery program.The State Department of Local Affairs and the CWCB created a Watershed Resiliency pilot program with the HUD funds, creating capacity in local watershed coalitions, developing resiliency recovery plans, providing stream designs,and constructing projects.

The CWCB’s mission is to conserve, develop, protect, and manage Colorado’s water for present and future generations.  Following the 2013 floods, CWCB executed this mission by developing comprehensive watershed and stream master plans to unify stakeholders around a common vision that emphasized natural stream function and ecosystem health along with property and infrastructure protection.  The vision was not singularly flood mitigation, but also systemic stream resiliency. The recovery effort was an exciting opportunity to bring long-lasting resilience to the flood-affected streams.

Program Highlights

·  117 projects completed in 9 flood-affected watersheds

·  Timeline: March 2015 - May 2018

·   Over 65 miles of stream  of river improvements implemented

·   Total construction costs of over $70 million (program under budget)

·   Worked with over 700 private property owners

·   Near-term damage reduction as a result of implemented projects of $270 million (both public infrastructure and private property).

·   Program coordinated the growing of native plants through the Colorado State Forest Service to fully meet the supply demands of

·   In total, CWCB coordinated project implementation through 28 different project sponsors, including watershed coalitions, special
districts and local governments.