Happy Wednesday, Boulder. Here’s what’s going on.

For today, I cover flood mitigation and the challenges therein. Boulder has the highest risk of flooding in Colorado with 16 creeks and streams flowing into the city. As much of the town was built before floodplain management was common, many neighborhoods in Boulder are built in highly floodable areas.

As part of the city’s latest attempt to mitigate this risk, this week the Utilities Department will present a plan to City Council for the Goose Creek and Two Mile Creek drainages. One stretch of this plan, however, is making a few residents unhappy. They say a wildlife corridor currently sits where the city envisions a wide flood-conveyance ditch, highlighting a main conundrum of flood mitigation.

Also, John Herrick brings you a story on evictions. The city is changing who qualifies for rental assistance under its eviction prevention program so it doesn’t run out of money before the year’s end. In order to qualify for up to $3,000 in rental assistance, tenants will now need to have a court date for an eviction hearing. Previously, practically anyone who needed help paying rent could receive financial assistance.

Enjoy your day. I’ll see you Friday.

— Tim, reporter

What to know today

  • Sunny 70s: Today is a respite from the rain, so enjoy it — unless you enjoy rain, in which case suffer through today knowing wet will return tomorrow. Yet after dropping to the 60s for Thursday and Friday, we’ll be in the 70s for some time. Summer, it appears, is determined to come.
  • City ballot measure proposed to pay for arts: City of Boulder residents are circulating a ballot measure petition to reauthorize the .15% sales tax, which is set to expire at the end of 2024, and spend the revenue on city arts programs and grants to local nonprofits.
    • The Arts for Boulder initiative is backed by members of the arts community — including Create Boulder — who have long advocated for more arts funding. “Boulder spends just $17 per capita annually on cultural affairs compared to $43 per capita from similar cities. That’s just not right. Boulder is better than this,” Travis Albright, the chief operating officer of eTown, said in an email this week drumming up support for the petition.
    • The initiative may end up competing with other ideas over what to do with the sales tax, which is expected to generate $7.25 million in revenue next year, according to city officials. It has historically been used for general purposes, such as fire, police, human services and other broad programs.
    • During a Boulder City Council meeting last week, city officials recommended a 2023 ballot measure to extend the sales tax for a “non-exclusive” purpose. “We feel quite strongly that this is a critical general fund revenue source,” Kara Skinner, the city’s chief financial officer, told councilmembers. “If it was not renewed or dedicated to a specific purpose, it would create a budget gap.”
    • The Arts for Boulder ballot measure petition is the second petition to be circulated ahead of the November city election. The first, Safe Zones 4 Kids, seeks to ensure the city prioritizes clearing out tents and propane tanks used by homeless people near schools, sidewalks and multi-use paths.
    • Both measures need 3,437 signatures from registered voters by June 9 in order to qualify for the November ballot.
  • Air pollution protection leaves much to be desired: Last week, the Colorado General Assembly passed the Protecting Communities from Air Pollution Act (HB23-1294), aimed at addressing the public health crisis caused by air pollution. Despite industry pressure weakening the proposed regulations, the legislation does still contain some crucial measures: increased enforcement of air and oil and gas permits and a strengthened air quality complaint process.
    • An interim committee established under the bill will continue working towards stronger air quality regulations in Colorado. Over the summer, the committee will explore additional measures to reduce ground-level ozone and identify potential reforms to the permitting process. This comes after the Front Range’s air quality was classified as “severe” last September by the Environmental Protection Agency for its high levels of ground-level ozone.
    • Boulder County officials continue to advocate for stricter controls on the oil and gas industry, a main contributor to the Front Range’s poor air quality. Ground-level ozone, caused by nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds from sources including oil and gas operations and vehicle emissions, can trigger respiratory problems and reduce lung function.
  • More money to rebuild: Residents affected by the Marshall Fire who are rebuilding or repairing their destroyed or damaged homes will receive financial support through the passage of HB23-1240. The new legislation allows individuals who have a funding gap to receive a refund equivalent to 2% of the valuation stated on the building permit. A valuation of $800,000 will result in a $16,000 refund, while a $1 million valuation will provide a $20,000 refund. This is on top of the $20,000 (or more) those rebuilding on their original lots are eligible to receive from local philanthropy.
    • To obtain the “use tax” refund, homeowners need to apply directly to the Colorado Department of Revenue, and a specific form for this purpose will be created by the department. This application process will be separate from filing income taxes.
    • Details regarding the application procedure, timelines and refund processing are currently being finalized, according to Marshall Together, a nonprofit helping fire victims heal and rebuild.

Go Deeper…

As Boulder seeks to flood-proof Goose and Two Mile Creeks, some residents grapple with altering a wildlife pathway for flood defense

By Tim Drugan

May 17, 2023

Hidden behind homes on the south side of Central Boulder’s Edgewood Drive is a largely untouched landscape. And the residents of Edgewood like it that way. It’s almost a private oasis for them and for wildlife.

But now this oasis could become less so, as a plan to provide flood protection in the Goose Creek and Two Mile drainages moves forward. And while the project is in its early stages, the area behind the Edgewood homes seems destined to be altered.

Continue reading…

As rent relief money runs short, Boulder introduces eviction hearing requirement for tenants in need

By John Herrick

May 17, 2023

In recent months, City of Boulder officials have been burning through their budget for rental assistance at about twice the rate as last year, forcing them to make difficult decisions about who should have access to the remaining funds.   

To stretch its limited pot of money further, city officials last month began requiring tenants seeking rental assistance to first have received a summons to appear in housing court, according to city officials. 

Continue reading…

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BRL Picks

👩🏽‍🍳 Bring back local: Nigh, a local community app (and disclosure, a recent BRL Today newsletter sponsor) aimed at supporting businesses near you, is hosting an outreach event at Galvanize Boulder on Tuesday, May 23, from 6-7:30 p.m. The event will provide an opportunity to learn more about Nigh’s mission to “Bring Back Local” and its efforts to create a new way of experiencing and supporting local businesses. The event is open to everyone.

🪴 BVSD plant sale: Get yourself a wide variety of organically grown plants, including basil, dahlias and heirloom tomatoes. All plants are “pollinator friendly with help from BVSD staff, students, and community members.” The event takes place in front of the BVSD greenhouse in the Arapahoe Ridge High School parking lot. Two days remain for the sale: Friday, May 19 from 12-6 p.m, and Saturday, May 20, from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

🍅 Boulder’s Wednesday Farmers Market is open — reminder: The 36th season of the Boulder County Farmers Markets is underway — and Boulder’s Wednesday market officially opened earlier this month. The Wednesday markets are open from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. Check out some of this season’s new vendors.

For ideas on what else to do, check out BRL’s Local Events page.


Tim Drugan is the climate and environment reporter for Boulder Reporting Lab, covering wildfires, water and other climate-related issues for Boulder with a focus on explanatory and solutions journalism. He also is the lead writer of BRL Today, our morning newsletter. Tim grew up in New Hampshire and graduated from UNH with a degree in English/Journalism. Email: tim@boulderreportinglab.org.