Republican State House District 20 Rep. Terri Carver’s bill to protect flood mitigation projects passed the Colorado House of Representatives last week by an overwhelming bipartisan vote. El Paso County, Colorado Springs, Flying W Ranch, Manitou Springs and the Colorado Department of Transportation spent more than $4 million in detention basins and flood mitigation efforts to protect citizens from flash flooding in the aftermath of the Waldo Canyon fire, according to a news release.
“These essential flood mitigation efforts were put in jeopardy when the Colorado Division of Water Resources indicated these efforts might trigger a water court decree process, absent a change in state law,” the release stated. “The DWR ruling also negatively impacted city and county stormwater drainage infrastructure operations.”
According to the release, Carver joined the efforts by State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R, Sterling, and State Rep. Faith Winter, D, Westminster, to protect flood mitigation projects and stormwater infrastructure operations from costly water court adjudications. Carver represents the Mountain Shadows and Peregrine areas affected by the Waldo Canyon fire, and the areas in western Colorado Springs, Cascade and Green Mountain Falls impacted by flash flooding in 2012 and 2013.
The bill (SB15-212) clarifies that “post-wildfire” flood mitigation projects and stormwater infrastructure operations do not injure water rights, the release states adding the bill recognizes the importance of city and county actions to protect lives and property. The bill sets specific criteria for stormwater and post-fire flood mitigation facilities to ensure that downstream water rights are not harmed, without the need to go to water court. The bill was supported by cities and counties across the state. El Paso County, Colorado Springs, Fountain, Manitou Springs, Woodland Park, Pueblo, and Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments supported the bill.
“Flash flooding from intense storms over the Waldo Canyon burn scar area are a serious threat to our local communities,” stated Carver in the release. “Residents in El Paso and Teller counties have volunteered thousands of hours to assist with debris removal and re-vegetation, after the Waldo Canyon fire. Our flood mitigation efforts, including the construction of numerous detention basins and other structures, are essential to slowing down the water flow and reducing the flash flooding hazard. We cannot tie up these life-saving efforts in costly, time-consuming water court litigation.”