24 July 2006

Flood Prevention Republican Style in Colorado

The Cherry Creek Reservoir dam might not be able to stop a flood of central Denver according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Where is Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo on the issue? He cares more about protecting property in his own 6th Congressional District, that might be impacted by a higher dam and hence a larger reservoir, than the lives of Diana DeGette's constituents downstream in Denver.

[W]ork on the problem was suspended six years ago after the Corps suggested raising the dam to make it safer.

The potential impact on surrounding real estate caused such a public outcry that U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo and others stopped funding for the Corps' work on the safety issue in 1999.

Cherry Creek runs from the Cherry Creek State Park (near Governor Owen's suburban home), to the South Platte River, a few hundred yards South of the Elitch Garden's Amusement Park in downtown Denver. A serious flood in the Creek could impact much of highly populated central Denver which lies in its flood plain. The risk is real according to an Army Corps of Engineers study.  According to the Rocky Mountain News:

Federal precipitation studies done in the 1980s and '90s indicated that the 1940s-era dam would not withstand a catastrophic flood.

Of particular concern are Denver's county hospital, Denver Health, which would likely face urgent needs to provide care for flood victims at the time, and the Cherry Creek Mall, which is often full of people who might be unaware of the coming wave of water. Both of these facilities are in the low lying part of the Cherry Creek flood plain in places with relatively little backup drainage beyond the immediate river basin.

Currently, the downstream areas of Cherry Creek are designed to handle a 100 year flood, only subject to the condition that the dam holds. Repeated deadly floods in Denver were one of the main justifications for both the Cherry Creek dam (which prevented a major flood in that river basin in 1965) and the Chatfield Reservoir dam. An August 3, 1933 flood, for example, sent a fifteen foot wall of water surging into low lying areas of Denver.

Cross Posted at Colorado Confidential.

No comments: