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State blunder has Colorado Springs-area flood project in limbo

August 12, 2016 Updated: August 13, 2016 at 9:31 pm
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A man shovels water from a bridge that is a back entrance to shops on Canon Ave. in Manitou Springs during 2003 flooding in the area. A blunder by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs has left an El Paso County flood recovery project in limbo. Carol Lawrence,The Gazette

A blunder by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs has left an El Paso County flood recovery project in limbo. 

DOLA had awarded the county $945,000 in Community Development Block Grant money in late 2015 for a much-needed project along Fountain Creek near U.S. Highway 85/87 south of Colorado Springs, but in June, the county got some bad news:

The award would be much smaller than expected.

Federal guidelines cap at $250,000 the money that can be given out for projects that involve the Army Corps of Engineers - which is administering the work near 85/87 and Maxwell Street.

The project, necessary after torrential floods badly damaged the banks of the creek in September 2013, would shore up a 1,000-foot section of the creek, keep the highway safe and prevent eroded river banks from approaching a mobile home park during the next large flood event.

"Now we have a fear of losing this project," Brian Olson of the county's budget division said Friday. "If we don't have the funding on this, they'll take that money and use it somewhere else."

The total cost of the work is estimated at more than $2.5 million, according to a May 2015 project overview. The Army Corps of Engineers will pick up three quarters of that tab, and the rest was expected to come from the money awarded to El Paso County, but the cap leaves the county short.

"We're still trying to figure how we can fill that gap," county Commissioner Sallie Clark said.

Olson said the project is doing feasibility analysis, a study that will cost the county $180,000. If the Army decides the project isn't worth the cost, no grant money will be available at all, Olson said. The actual cost the county must pay will be determined after the feasibility study is complete.

While the county still has at least two months before the feasibility study is complete and the Army Corps' determination on the value of the project is made, the county has shown urgency about finding alternate sources of money. They hope to receive some assistance in solving that problem.

"The state has got a lot on their plate," Olson said. "They made an error on this. I'm hoping they'll help us get through this thing."

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