Barbara Lawlor, Coal Creek Canyon. It has been almost two years since the Flood of 2013 raged down Coal Creek Canyon, tearing bridges from their foundations and gouging out earth that supported driveways and roads.
For weeks, CCC was closed to traffic as the wall of water had its way and left the roads impassable. Since then, Hwy 72 has been repaired and the roads reopened, but flood recovery is still taking place as neighborhoods put together plans to make the roads more sustainable and to build diversion paths to accommodate high-water floods in the future.
Various flood-stricken areas have formed associations to pool resources and ideas about how to repair and rebuild the flood-damaged creek and surrounding land. Flood damage in Colorado’s Front Range resulted in $3.4 billion in damages and changed the local population’s relationship to their local creeks and rivers.
The flood also resulted in unprecedented community support for residents and neighbors who experienced flood related damage. The Coal Creek Canyon watershed is contained within Jefferson, Boulder, and Gilpin Counties. After the flood, a local community non-profit, The Environment Group, began to create a watershed restoration master plan to assist the entire canyon community with its post-flood recovery work.
After the master plan was completed, a group of canyon residents volunteered to continue the work to implement the master plan. This group formed a non-profit watershed coalition under the auspices of TEG, to begin the priority projects in the watershed restoration master plan. With financial assistance from a Community Development Block Grant under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, staff have been hired to help manage project work and lead this coalition, the Coal Creek Canyon Watershed Partnership.
Two weeks ago, David Kamin was hired as the CCCWP Coordinator. Kamin holds a B.A. in History from Carleton College and a M.S. in Watershed Science from Colorado State University. His experience includes two years working for a large non-profit agency in Washington, D.C., and six years working in Natural Resource Management for the U.S. Forest Service and the City of Boulder. The CCCWP is also hiring an assistant.
Kamin was introduced at a meeting at the Coal Creek Canyon Improvement Association last week and a crowd of residents showed up to let him know they were concerned that a board had been formed and completed a master plan without them knowing of decisions being made about their property and with their tax money.
Showing pictures of the flood damage, Kamin said, “It has been a while since the flood and these pictures are why we are here. The CCCWP was formed to use federal money and grants to solve the problems left in the wake of the floods. I’m not saying there won’t be problems if there is another big flood, but we are working on it. Stream restoration and redesigned culverts can change that.
“But the most important thing I want you to know is that this is a coalition and nothing will happen on a property owner’s land if they don’t want it to. This is not a government agency and there won’t be any takeovers. This is all about the focusing on stream restoration.”
Many people in the audience looked unconvinced. There had been rumors and interpretations of the master plan that some thought indicated that changing the course of the creek near the KwikMart in the canyon meant getting rid of the building.
Kamin emphasized that the CCCWP master plan examines the watershed as a whole to figure out what can be done to ensure minimum damage in the event of another flood. He explained that the master plan is a tool to gather information on restoration and rebuilding and working with the individual property owners. “We want to keep it fluid, keep talking.”
The goal is to be transparent and get the money to help the community. Kamin’s office is next to the Coal Creek Coffee Shop, in the liquor store / KwikMart area. He will be in the office from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
KC McFersun, the Watershed Manager for the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, told the group that he worked with federal money to aid local coalitions. Emily Morgan, case manager for the Catholic Charities Disaster Relief fund, said they were helping eight different counties, including Jefferson and Clear Creek. She said Gilpin County was not federally named for public assistance but individuals could talk to her about getting help.
One man interrupted, saying that he heard talk about fixing people’s driveways, “Why should I pay for someone else’s driveway? That is my tax money. It should be the individual’s responsibility because they didn’t clean out their culverts.”
Kamin replied that grant money would be used to take the project to the next level and in the end only the property owners would have the final say. “As a group we can help out to expand the stream in the commercial areas. We want to have everyone involved.”
When asked how the coalition started, Chris Garre, President of TEG and Vice President of the CCCWP board, said that the group had been approached to create a watershed master plan. He hired Icon Engineering and two subcontractors as well as an eco resource consultant and they came up with a master plan, with a priority list, under the Department of Local Affairs.
The first grant went to hire Kamin for 18 months as well as an assistant. Volunteers from the community formed the Board of Directors: Cindy Pieropan, President; Chris Garre, Treasurer; Tom Mulvany, Secretary; John Baich, Bruce Bevirt, and Jeffrey Kinder. The board was formed last fall and continued to meet over the winter.
When one person shouted that the board meetings should have been highly publicized, Kamin said, “That’s me. That’s my job now. Please stop by and talk to me.”
Board member Jeff Kinder told the audience that they didn’t have to be on the board to have input. “We are glad you are and happy you are participating. We are now moving forward. We are just a bunch of guys and gals trying to do the best we can to get people what they need. Obama is going to spend it anyway, so we might as well get some of it.”
But why, continued one member of the audience, if things have been discussed since last December, are we only just finding out. “You didn’t give us a chance to say if we wanted this process. We weren’t involved and we want to be involved. We don’t want to be dismissed.”
Again Kamin said that’s why he was hired: to get the word out. He said he went to every homeowner along the creek to explain the coalition.
One of the first projects will be the commemoration walkway of the flood, an 800-foot demonstration project.
Before the end of the meeting, a few people asked Kamin to comment on the what was said about KwikMart in the master plan. “We want to believe you, but people are expressing concerns. When I ask a question, answer it. We want things to be black and white.”
Kamin promised he would be transparent and he and Garre agreed to amend the master plan, taking the statement “We need to buy out KwikMart” out of the plan. Garre said, “The only entity to do anything with KwikMart is KwikMart”
He explained that the master plan is final only in the sense that it is an overall guide for the community, providing options and suggested priorities to improve the conveyance of streams, creeks, and brooks while protecting community resilience and mountain ecology.
Watersheds are required to have a master watershed plan to be used when applying for grants to obtain funding for individual restoration efforts. Once a grant is identified and received for potential projects listed in the Master Plan, then the detailed planning and design for that specific project would begin.
In the planning and design phase all community stakeholders, and more specifically property owners of the affected areas, would join to determine the scope, priorities, and design details of any project on private property; without this collaboration projects simply will not happen.
For more information on the coalition and upcoming projects visit Kamin in his office or email him at email@example.com.