DENVER – A series of planned flood-protection projects in northeast Denver faces staunch opposition from a group of residents who think the plan is too closely tied to the I-70 East Expansion Project.
The city’s plan, dubbed “Platte to Park Hill: Stormwater Systems,” aims to reduce flood risks east and north of downtown, according to Denver Public Works spokeswoman, Nancy Kuhn.
“This is a very large area –the largest area that we have without a natural waterway,” Kuhn explained. “What we need to do is create some pretty strong infrastructure to sort of serve as a waterway, to be able to capture a lot of water and convey it to the Platte.”
The city is planning four major projects beginning with a redesign of Globeville Landing Park and its current outfall system to allow more water to flow into the South Platte River.
Future construction would include digging an open drainage channel along 39th Avenue and creating two detention ponds. One pond would potentially include a portion of City Park Golf Course or the northern area of Cole neighborhood. The second would be constructed within the Park Hill Golf Club.
“There are people who don’t want the project for various reasons,” Nancy Kuhn conceded.
Members of several neighborhood groups have voiced their opposition to the city’s plans. Heidi Sue Harris is one of several members of the Cole Storm-water Working Group concerned about the environmental impacts to Cole and surrounding communities.
“They seem like they’re more interested in profits over community and that’s a big problem,” Harris said.
Harris and others also see a link between the city’s proposed drainage projects and the controversial I-70 expansion project which includes plans to lower and cap a section of I-70 between Brighton and Colorado Boulevards.
“It’s absolutely, 100 percent connected to the I-70 project,” Harris said.
Harris pointed to an agreement between the city and the Colorado Department of Transportation to share some of the costs of drainage.
“[The city doesn’t] have the money to do this project. They need C-DOT,” Harris said.
Harris said she’s also worried that construction of a drainage channel near an old Superfund cleanup site could expose potentially toxic soil in the Cole neighborhood.
“It’s going to be toxic water,” Harris said. “They’re going to acidify the South Platte River.”
According to the Department of Public Works, it’s not pursuing flood-protection projects in northeast Denver because of the I-70 project.
A “frequently asked questions” page addresses that concern with the following answer: “It is in the best interest of residents and businesses to construct the Platte to Park Hill: Stormwater Systems program during the same time as I-70 reconstruction as we will be able to realize critical time and cost savings.”
Residents like Heidi Sue Harris don’t buy that answer.
“We’re just bound and determined to stop this at every level,” Harris said.
The city is moving forward with plans to complete the projects which will be funded, in part, by a proposed increase in wastewater fees.
Construction at Globeville Landing Park is expected to start later this year. The city anticipates all four projects will be complete by 2020.