by Louis Plachowski
ASKS CITY TO SLOW DOWN AND DEVELOP BETTER OPTIONS.
"We must take the time to bring the neighborhoods together to find a mutually satisfactory solution."
CPFAN's Board of Directors recently voted to reject the 2 OPTIONS proposed by the City of Denver and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) for storm water flood mitigation and asked the city for different options that would have less impact on neighborhoods.
The OPTIONS seem to be designed mainly to protect the Highway I 70 expansion from a 100 year flood. See the I 70 Environmental Impact Statement. (EIS)
Storm water flooding is a concern for CDOT because it plans to lower and cover a section of Highway I 70, 40 feet down into a trench, 20 feet below the water table, next to the South Platte River and in the path of a major drainage.
If it were not for the requirement that the lowered, partially covered highway must be protected against a 100 year flood, it seems that neither the need nor the urgency to build such storm water detention basins as Option 1 &2, would be necessary.
Denver Public Works has a backlog of $1.5 billion in projects of equal or more immediate concern to neighborhoods, all outlined in its 2014 Storm Drainage Plan. Will citizens be asked to pay higher Storm Water fees to help pay for this project?
These options were developed through a multi-agency task force which included representatives from CDOT, RTD, Denver and Urban Drainage sometime in 2014 and never presented to any members of the public until Nov. 2015 and Feb. 2016. Thousands of citizens are totally unaware that a major drainage project is being quickly advanced by the City. They were presented in community meetings by GBSM, a PR firm hired by the city.
The initial GBSM presentations seemed to imply that flooding in neighborhoods such as North Park Hill and others would get some flood relief from the proposed Options , but it was later confirmed that the flood relief from these Options would not extend to those neighborhoods.
O PTION 1:
Bulldoze 50 acres of Historic City Park Golf Course (NRHP) ( 1/3 rd of the course) designed by nationally renowned course designer,Tom Bendelow. Cut down 280+ historic, mature trees and bulldoze the recently completed ( 2001) Club House on 26th and York that houses Bogey's restaurant, a large community room and the pro shop. Regrade the land to accomodate a 50 acre, industrial dry detention pond,a utility, to hold toxic storm water run off. The visual is hard to imagine.
Bulldoze 55 + historic homes in the Cole Neighborhood , and replace them with a dry detention pond, a utility, and a 100 foot wide open ditch to capture fast moving storm water run off. The area is already, it seems , impacted by PCE toxins and is an EPA Superfund site. This Option seems drastic, severe and totally unnecessary.
CPFAN's REQUEST TO DENVER :CPFAN's Board of Directors asked that the city go back to the drawing board, with neighborhood input from the start, and come up with options that protect existing neighborhoods and parks.
THE CITY SEEMS ANXIOUS TO PUSH THIS THROUGH.... OVER NEIGHBORHOOD CONCERNS AND PROTESTS.
The city seems to be pushing this project through very quickly. They want a decision on which OPTION will be chosen by the Mayor as early as the middle of February , 2016. The city, through GBSM, may have done an excellent job of telling people what they were going to do, at myriad meetings, but they never asked what the citizens thought or wanted,in the beginning of the flawed process. This seems to be a recurring issue with Denver.
WHATS the RUSH? CDOT SAYS THAT THEY DON’T EVEN NEED DENVER’S HELP.
The City of Denver and CDOT seem to take the position that their plans to share the costs of some elements of I 70, are, somehow, NOT connected to The Denver Storm Water Mitigation plans,
Options 1 & 2. See the Inter Governmental Agreement. (IGA)
CDOT’s Tony Devido has stated publicly, that CDOT doesn’t need Denver’s Storm Mitigation project to protect I 70 from a 100 year flood. He says that CDOT has its own coverage. If there is no hurry to protect I 70 from flooding then what is the rush? Denver has time to find more suitable storm water mitigation options.
WHY WOULD THE CITY/CDOT NOT WANT I70 AND STORM WATER PROJECTS CONNECTED?
One theory is that by trying to seperate out the funding and the function of the flood mitigation project from I70, that gets federal money, the City and CDOT, will escape the Federal government's NEPA requirements and the potentially expensive inclusion of Cole Neighborhood and Denver City Park Golf Course in the I 70 Environmental Impact Statement.
ON THE BRIGHT SIDE.....IF THEY ARE NOT CONNECTED..
Then we have lots of time to consider better options. . We requested that locations with less impact on neighborhoods be considered, namely parking lots, industrial sites, vacant lots, superfund clean up areas, etc. and -- even better -- that the city adopt green infrastructure solutions to detain water and distribute the load by requiring that all new development play a part in the solution.
WHAT IF THERY ARE CONNECTED?
The stakes could be high for Cole Neighborhood and/or City Park Golf Course AND Denver /CDOT.
The National Environmental Protection Act(NEPA) seems to offer protections for all land and communities impacted by a project that receives federal dollars or is connected to one by function, like I 70. The Cole Neighborhood and the City Park Golf Course could be included in the Environmental Impact Statement
If they are connected, Cole could, for example, receive an EPA reviewed , Environmental Justice report, Many of the Cole neighbors are minorities and low income . The toxins that plague the Cole neighborhood could be assessed by EPA. City Park Golf Course, on the National Register of Historic Places, Could be eligible for many protections offered historic properties by the Federal government, in a Section 106 Review.
DO YOU THINK THAT THE TWO PROJECTS ARE CONNECTED?
When you read the Inter Governmental Agreement (IGA) you see references that the projects seem to be connected. For example, on page 5H of the IGA, Denver agrees to pay $5000 a day in liquidated damages, for each day that it is "late to deliver" its section of the I 70 flood mitigation project to CDOT. And:
"The IGA provides that the City of Denver will provide funding support for the I-70 East Project in the form of an annual availability payment totaling $37M net present value, in the form of equal annual installments of $2,688,010 over 30 years. Annual installments will commence upon completion of the project. In addition, the City will ensure in-kind contributions to the efficiency and risk reduction of the I-70 East project, valued at $46M."
Above you can hear Denver city officials explain the terms that they negotiated on THE "I 70 East Montclair Park Hill Drainage. "
If they are connected, by virtue of the fact that they are all a part of the I 70 project that is federally funded, then the Cole Neighborhood and City Park Golf Course could be included in the Environmental Impact Statement and could receive all of the protections afforded to them by Federal law.
CONSIDER LETTING THE MAYOR AND YOUR CITY COUNCIL PEOPLE KNOW WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT OPTION 1 &2 AND THE NEED FOR OPTIONS THAT DON’T NEGATIVELY IMPACT NEIGHBORHOODS.
Extra Credit Reading:
This apparently flood prone I-70 Lowered alternative is not necessarily the preferred alternative of Denver citizens and I-70 neighbors. COPIRG has labeled a big Boondoggle. Consider: I70 Expansion Alternative
I look forward to hearing your thoughts about this matter.
CPFAN President 720.425.3768
Thursday, February 18, 2016
by Louis Plachowski