On Nov. 15, City of Boulder staff held an information session at Foothills Elementary School about the Upper Goose Creek/Twomile Creek Flood mitigation project. An undertaking that has brought much public ire to city staff, it’s one of the more than 30 such projects the city hopes to finish in the next three decades to make Boulder more flood resilient.

In May, the Boulder City Council approved a conceptual plan for the roughly $40 million project that would take some 527 structures out of the 100-year floodplain of the two drainages. Yet some Boulderites living along a pivotal stretch of the project on Edgewood Drive spoke out at that council meeting, saying the only reason they found out about the upcoming vote was from their neighbors.

“Most of us did not hear about this until March or April,” said one resident of Edgewood Drive. Another resident said the community engagement efforts of the city “were perfunctory at best and negligent at worst.”

Joe Taddeucci, director of utilities for the city, apologized at the Nov. 15 meeting for the city’s insufficient outreach. But he said that the community engagement thus far has “already shaped what we’re planning here,” and added that in the City of Boulder “the community has a lot of power.”

And as Taddeucci said, because the flood mitigation effort is still in such early stages, there’s “still a lot of time to shape the project.”

The floodplain for the two drainages of the proposed Upper Goose Creek and Two Mile Creek mitigation project. Dark blue indicates the 100-year floodplain, light blue is the 500-year floodplain. Courtesy of the City of Boulder

One of the main concerns about the Upper Goose Creek/Twomile Creek flood mitigation project pertains to a stretch called Reach 6. This reach runs along Edgewood Drive and would require construction on the creek to enable floodwater to better navigate the section and stay off roads and out of Boulderites’ basements. Residents of Edgewood Drive, however, who call themselves Edgewooders, have pointed to the mature trees along the stretch and wildlife that use the corridor as habitat as reasons to preserve the creek as is. Because of this outcry, city council directed staff to pursue options that would push less floodwater through the section.

Brandon Coleman, a city engineer and the manager for the flood project, told community members on Nov. 15 that because of a lack of funding, no further work has been done on the project’s design. His comments suggested that he was hearing from Boulderites concerned that the city was moving forward without input.

“There’s nothing going on in the back,” he said, adding that with funding secured for 2024, designing the project would resume in January 2024.

Coleman also said that because of the large size of the project, and because of its price tag, construction of the project won’t be done all at once. A few reaches will be tackled at a time.

However, this may not be reassuring for the Edgewooders. Reach 6 is one of the farthest downstream, and downstream is where flood project construction begins. As Coleman explained, making flood infrastructure more efficient, and “passing more floodwater downstream,” is not possible without the downstream infrastructure to support it.

Tim Drugan is the climate and environment reporter for Boulder Reporting Lab, covering wildfires, water and other related topics. He is also the lead writer of BRL Today, our morning newsletter. Email: tim@boulderreportinglab.org.

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