• A neighborhood group that advocates for the safety of people whose lives and property are threatened when South Boulder Creek overtops U.S. 36 in Boulder, Colorado.

New Video! Flood Risk for South Boulder, Colorado 2019

Thanks to the kind folks of the Open Boulder Foundation for producing this excellent mini-documentary about the flood risk for South Boulder, Colorado posed by South Boulder Creek.

“Overnight flash-flooding in Boulder, Colorado:  The sirens have just sounded again in Boulder as growing floods have cut off almost every road to this city of almost 100,000 people . . . “

City of Boulder staffers unsettled by current leadership

The City of Boulder lost three key and talented staff members from its Public Works Department in the last year due to resignations.  Why so many resignations in the last year?  Check out this piece in the Daily Camera: Boulder planning, public works staffers unsettled by city leadership; transformations necessary.  Here is an excerpt:

 

Many Boulder city employees are unsettled by their current work environments, a newly completed city-commissioned report shows.

Specifically, Boulder Public Works and Planning and Development Services staffers this year raised serious qualms with how they are managed by top department officials and city council, according to the report. Those employees comprise about 25% of the city’s total staff.

At least one city councilmember has acknowledged city council’s role in contributing to some of the issues raised.

. . .

Mayor Suzanne Jones acknowledged the report shows evidence of council being too harsh and confusing staff.

“I think we hire the best and brightest staff and clearly we need to do more to set them up for success,” Jones said. “I think the turnover in senior staff creates a good opportunity to look afresh at the organizational structure at these departments and to be more responsive to the concerns staff are raising and create a structure that is more efficient and has more clarity.”

. . .

“The buck stops with the city council,” Jones said. “It’s up to us to take ownership for the decisions that we make and take the heat for them, rather than having staff bear the brunt of the polarized public discourse on tough issues. Especially around growth and development. We should take the heat, not have staff shield us.”

 

When you fail to keep committed, longtime employees, you lose institutional memory.  This is especially problematic in departments like Planning and Public Works where people work on projects like South Boulder Creek flood mitigation that take years to complete.  To change the culture on Council please vote for candidates who support good governance and staff retention.   Click through to read the whole Daily Camera article.

 

 

 

Opinion by Jan Burton: Deep work needed by Council for real results

We need a council willing to work deeply to solve Boulder’s bigger problems like reducing flood risk at South Boulder Creek.  Check out former councilwoman Jan Burton’s piece in the Daily Camera that advocates for a deeper and results-driven approach to governance: Deep work by Boulder City Council required for real results.   Here’s an excerpt:

 

Jan Burton

Jan Burton

Let’s take the South Boulder Creek flood mitigation as an example. This has been a work item for 25 years, brought into laser-focus after the 2013 floods. During my tenure on Council, we made regular, albeit snail-like, progress, adding the CU South property (fundamental to flood mitigation) to the 2017 Comprehensive Plan and directing the Planning Board to document our annexation guiding principles.

But the composition of Council shifted in 2017, and the new majority began slowing down the decision process to delay housing development on the University of Colorado Boulder’s south property. In the process, they dismissed preferred recommendations from the Water Resources Advisory Board, key engineering experts and other key constituencies, including the land owner — causing confusion and back-tracking for all parties involved and ultimately the departure of critical and highly capable city water engineering staff.

Sadly, 3,500 of our residents in south Boulder neighborhoods aren’t any closer to flood protection than they were when I took office in 2015.

If City Council truly focused on Boulder’s top three to five priorities, I believe both they and city staff would be more effective, residents would feel less overwhelmed with the public process, and we’d show more progress. But, how do we get there?

Knowing that 3,500 residents’ lives are at stake, South Boulder Creek flood mitigation could easily become the top area of focus. The next Council, starting their term in November 2019, could publicly declare this as their top priority and one on which they would focus 50% of their efforts in the following six months. This would send a signal to the key stakeholders and partners to clear their calendars for deep work . . .

Click through to read the full piece here.

Factual info about South Boulder Creek flood mitigation at CU South

The South Boulder Creek Action Group values facts.  We support facts-based decision making within the City of Boulder, and we strive for factual accuracy when we communicate with you and others about South Boulder Creek flood mitigation. Here are three information resources we’ve found helpful that you may find helpful, too.

CU Boulder South - FAQs

The University of Colorado’s CU South FAQ is a tremendous resource for people seeking to understand CU’s role in flood mitigation at CU South and their plans for the CU South site.  If you’ve wondered why CU wants to annex the CU South property, what type of development might happen on the property, or are seeking info about present and future recreation opportunities, check this FAQ out.

 

In 2017 the City of Boulder produced a detailed document, the result of extensive public process, called the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan.  Check out the Comp Plan’s Guiding Principles, a set of guidelines regarding the annexation of CU South that exist within the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan.  The Guiding Principles were created to shape the City’s negotiations with CU.  If you’re interested in understanding what the City of Boulder’s values and aims are related to related to this project, those details are here.

 

Also, check out the City of Boulder’s South Boulder Creek Flood Mitigation Project page for info about past and upcoming events.  There’s also some good project background here including links to videos, maps and FAQs.

Daily Camera editorial: “City Council is blocking critical flood control”

The Daily Camera published a scathing editorial on May 25th taking Council to task to failing to move forward on flood control at South Boulder Creek in a timely way.  Here is an excerpt:

Onset of the wet season highlights the threat of flooding faced by residents in south Boulder, and a letter delivered last week from the University of Colorado to the city of Boulder reminds constituents of the City Council’s bungled effort to reduce that threat.

CU and the city must work together to complete critical flood mitigation on property the university owns. But the city is pursuing a plan that CU has warned, over and over, is dead in the water. CU officials felt compelled on Monday to reiterate this message in writing. They cautioned the city not to waste any more time and money on a plan the university can’t accept.

City officials should listen.

During a meeting last August, six of the nine Council members took a look at the flood mitigation concept to which planners awarded the highest marks for meeting project goals and which was developed through eight years and $2 million worth of study, including professional consultation, community feedback, advisory board analysis and countless hours of staff time, and tossed it overboard. Some Council members said a main concern they had with the Variant 2 500-year concept was that flood debris could clog the South Boulder Creek underpass at U.S. 36 and create conditions for residential flooding. But experts, relying on studies and professional experience, repeatedly asserted that such a risk was low. No matter. The Council majority ignored this advice, offering little justification for their doubt beyond expressions of gut feelings. Then-Councilwoman Jill Adler Grano — Grano and Councilmen Bob Yates and Aaron Brockett were the three dissenters — could hardly contain her frustration. “I’m confused,” she said. “We just spent an hour and a half listening to experts tell us it’s not an issue.”

There has long been a hope among some community members, especially in certain south Boulder neighborhoods, that the CU South property could remain open space. And some university critics have faulted CU for what they view as a calculating move in 1996 to buy the property, a former gravel mine, and program it for development despite known complications related to the proximity of a flood-prone waterway. This is not a trivial complaint, and an undeveloped CU South forms a dramatic, natural gateway to the city from the south.

But City Council must make decisions based on present circumstances and contemporary needs, and if Council members themselves harbored ill will toward CU for machinations that occurred more than 20 years ago, such grievance was not part of the majority’s stated opposition to an otherwise promising plan. So what’s going on? It’s hard not to assume that political pressure from anti-development interests is behind at least some of the Council majority’s obduracy.

Whatever the reason for Variant 2’s rejection, it was entirely predictable that pursuit of Variant 1 would lead to the current impasse. CU told the Council it would not participate in Variant 1 500-year. Council chose Variant 1 500-year anyway. Yet it’s as true today as it was last August — no CU participation, no Variant 1 500-year.

What happens now?

Click through to read the full piece:  City Council is blocking critical flood control at CU South.

The Boulder Beat

Shay Castle of The Boulder Beat

Shay Castle, who did a great job covering City Council for the Daily Camera in 2018, began a new venture earlier this year.  It’s a local news blog called The Boulder Beat.  Check out her latest piece about flood mitigation for South Boulder Creek, Boulder could have flood mitigation options on CU South by year’s end.

The Boulder Beat, funded by readers, is is a valuable addition to our local news landscape.  Check it out and support Shay if you like to see her continue to cover Council and other local news.

Two clarifying editorials by Jan Burton, and Frances Draper and Derek Silva

The Daily Camera has published two opinion pieces about flood mitigation for South Boulder Creek at CU South in the last week that clarify the current state of affairs.

The first is a column by former Councilwoman Jan Burton that highlights the critical nature of this project while lamenting poor governance at the Council level:  Boulder City Council is leaving residents in harm’s way.

 

“. . . It should be of concern to every citizen, let alone those in the direct path of South Boulder Creek flood waters, that the city has spent so much time and money on this work only to disregard it in favor of something Council manufactured on-the-fly. Understanding that no one on Council has relevant engineering expertise did not seem to bother six members when voting for something unprofessionally concocted with no promise of success. . . “

 

The second is a Guest Opinion penned by Frances Draper and Derek Silva of CU that outlines CU’s perspective as a collaborative partner: CU offers to partner with city on critical flood mitigation, by Frances Draper and Derek Silva

 

“. . . CU has no plans to develop the property in the near future and would not have otherwise submitted an annexation application at this time but for the city’s request that we do so. With this application, we are pleased to support the community by donating up to 80 acres of our land to the city — an estimated value of $18 million — for implementing flood mitigation. Over the past three years, we have dedicated significant effort to listening to input and sharing information at numerous city council and board meetings and have gathered valuable input through community engagement, outreach and surveys . . . “

WRAB’s Ted Rose speaks out

Ted Rose, a citizen volunteer who serves on Boulder’s Water Resources Advisory Board has spoken out about Council’s recent 6-3 vote to approve a flood mitigation plan that ignored his board’s expert recommendation.

You would think a problem of this magnitude would have the concerted attention of our City Council. But you’d be wrong. I’m a member of the Water Resources Advisory Board, a volunteer board appointed by Council to review the city’s utility plans, including its flood planning. The Board’s composition is impressive: two accomplished water lawyers, two distinguished scientists, and me, an entrepreneur who founded and runs a small hydro business in town.

In our year-end letter to Council, my Board wrote Council that we were concerned about our current trajectory, which leaves Boulderites and their property at great risk. We asked Council to meet with our Board to discuss an upcoming comprehensive flood plan review, so they could tackle important policy issues head-on.

Councilwoman Lisa Morzel, assigned to summarize our letter to Council at a recent retreat, skipped over the substantive issues and concluded the real news here was our volunteer board. She told Council members that the WRAB was “not happy” and mentioned multiple times that its members must have forgotten WRAB was established as an advisory board, not a decision-making body. Without discussing any of our points, Council moved on to discuss trash in public parks.

Meanwhile, two of the City’s most talented engineers have left Boulder’s water utility in the last few months and the comprehensive flood plan has been pushed off to next year due to the staffing shortfall. Boulderites are still paying for those flood studies, however, even though we have no way to implement all of their recommendations until the 22nd century. Meanwhile, residents in Frasier Meadows and elsewhere remain days away from a life-threatening flood event.

Click through to read the full editorial, Flood protection policy in Boulder is adrift.

Council voted 6 to 3 to approve a flood plan that ignored expert advice

“Boulder City Council on Tuesday night voted to move forward with a flood mitigation plan that ignored expert advice, objections from a key project partner, and the preferences of the public and a city advisory board . . . “
If you attended last night’s meeting you already know Council voted 6 to 3 to approve flood mitigation Variant 1/500.  Since the landowner, CU, has said numerous times they object to Variant 1/500, we are at an impasse.  Read about it in the Daily Camera: South Boulder Creek flood work moves forward with CU-opposed plan.

WRAB’s Flood Mitigation Recommendations

The South Boulder Creek Action Group is delighted to let you know that Boulder’s Water Resources Advisory Board passed a series of flood mitigation recommendations last Monday that we wholeheartedly support.  Council will hear these recommendations at their hearing on August 7th.  Here’s a summary.  Click the screen shots below to read the full text of each motion.
  • Take the Master Plan Option (formerly know as Option D) off the table.
  • Take the Upstream Option (citizen generated design recommended by OSBT) off the table  because it involves too much delay, is too costly, and has significant permitting issues.
  • Recommend Variant II, 500 year design as the preferred option; followed by Variant II, 100 year; and Variant I, 100 year.
  • By recommending a 500 year design as preferred they realize this is unprecedented and not achievable on future flood mitigation projects.  Still, they think the benefits are worth it in this instance.
Join us at City Council on August 7th, 2018 to support these recommendations!
WRAB's Flood Mitigation Recommendations

WRAB’s Flood Mitigation Recommendations 1 and 2, July 16th, 2018

WRAB's Flood Mitigation Recommendations

WRAB’s Flood Mitigation Recommendations 2 and 3, July 16th, 2018