Feds will fund study of Basalt’s flood risk
BASALT ” The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is showing renewed interest in a flood mitigation project in Basalt five years after diverting most of its funds to the war effort in Iraq.
The U.S. Senate approved an appropriations bill last week that includes $48,000 for a study by the Corps to “look at ways to stabilize the Roaring Fork River in order to prevent flooding in the middle of downtown Basalt,” according to a press release from Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. The bill awaits approval from President Obama.
Basalt officials welcomed the news. Mayor Leroy Duroux said he hopes the study eventually leads to the awarding of a grant to the town.
“The [Corps of Engineers] staff was always supportive. They just didn’t have the money,” he said.
Town officials were demoralized in February 2004 when the Corps of Engineers abandoned a potential funding source for a sweeping plan to ease the flood threat from the Roaring Fork River. Basalt applied for a $5 million grant and survived the first round of cuts. The Corps of Engineers abruptly shifted its focus and redirected most of its funding to building infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the Bush administration’s war on terror.
Basalt officials were sent comments in 2004 from the head of the Corps that outlined the new budget strategy.
“We’re privileged that our efforts directly support the president’s priorities of winning the war on terrorism, securing the homeland and revitalizing the economy,” said Lt. General Robert Powers, commander and chief of the Corps, in a statement referring to the budget of President Bush.
Without that key piece of funding, Basalt has had trouble finding funds for its flood mitigation projects. An extensive planning effort was completed in 2004 that outlined $18 million to $20 million in projects. A key component is relocating two trailer parks at the center of town.
The town’s 2004 grant application sought funds specifically for aquatic habitat restoration work. The project would have helped create wetlands along the Roaring Fork River and stabilized the banks.
Basalt Town Engineer Larry Thompson said town officials were informed about the funding of the study in the federal budget. He was preparing correspondence to contacts at the Army Corps of Engineers to learn more details.
He said a Colorado liaison for the agency contacted town officials one recent year after returning from Iraq to inform them that the agency was taking another look at projects that had been placed on hold.
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