Basaltines won’t give up on flood mitigation
September 19, 2008
BASALT ” A group of Basalt civic leaders want to re-ignite efforts to remove nearly 90 families living in two trailer parks from flood danger and undertake flood control projects on the Roaring Fork River.
The town government has wrestled throughout this decade with the flood threat facing Basalt, particularly the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park and the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park. Both are located on the banks of the Roaring Fork River in the heart of Basalt.
Officials were surprised that flooding didn’t occur this spring from runoff from a near-record snow year. “We were very lucky,” said Basalt Mayor Leroy Duroux. “We couldn’t have had better runoff for flood control.”
But efforts to solve the problems have stalled for lack of funding. Federal funding for river stabilization projects has dried up thanks to the war in Iraq and rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. Now, funds will be absorbed rebuilding the Texas coast after Hurricane Ike.
“Relying on federal dollars at this point, I think we should pretty much forget about that,” said Mark Kwiecienski, one of about 15 residents and town officials who met Thursday night to ponder how to ease the flood threat.
“We know we’re not going to get it,” agreed Duroux.
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Several attendees said that local funds will be needed for flood control projects or relocation of the trailer park residents. Ted Guy, a longtime architect and land use planner in Basalt, said the town cannot try to undertake the entire flood mitigation plan at one time. The cost is too overwhelming. Instead, it needs to accomplish steps in more affordable phases.
Consultants estimates placed the entire flood mitigation package at about $20 million.
It’s a case of “what pieces can we bite off first,” said Colin Laird, executive director of a local nonprofit organization called Healthy Mountain Communities and moderator of the meeting.
Ken Ransford, a Basalt businessman, said he favors going back to Basalt voters to seek approval to fund the purchase of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park. The town government had a contract to buy the mobile home park for $5 million, contingent on voter approval. But voters on April 1 rejected a property tax increase to fund the purchase. It failed by only 10 votes.
Ransford said it will be tough to raise funds for any flood mitigation projects as long as the trailers remain. Guy said the key to winning voter support is the town government having a specific plan in place for what would it will do once the trailer park is acquired. The town lacked such a plan in the April election.
“To me it was the negativity of the whole thing [that led to defeat] ” the government saying trust us,” Guy said.
The ad hoc group agreed that another key component to easing Basalt’s flood threat will be working with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) on improvements to what is known as the Upper Bypass Bridge, at Highway 82 and upper Two Rivers Road. The transportation department intended in the late 1980s to build a bridge that handled the 100-year flood flow of water in the river and it constructed a berm to prevent water from flowing into the South Side area of Basalt.
However, the design may exacerbate flood issues, according to town studies, and the berm may be topped or breached in a big flood, according to Basalt town engineer Larry Thompson.
The transportation department has expressed a willingness to address those issues, but funding is a challenge, Thompson said. CDOT doesn’t have the funds to undertake all needed projects in the state.
The group members agreed they will meet in a month to study the flood mitigation strategy further.