Work has started on a three-phase, $4 million stormwater project that aims to stop erosion into Monument Creek near the Air Force Academy - all while restoring the area's natural habitat that was hit hard by significant flooding.
The project focuses on a nearly two-mile stretch of the Monument Branch between Voyager Park and Monument Creek in north Colorado Springs. The natural channel starts in the Flying Horse community, flows between North Gate Boulevard and Interquest Park, and joins Monument Creek where it empties onto Air Force property.
City officials said the channel branch needs repairs after heavy storms struck the area in 2013 and 2015 and caused severe flooding.
Every year, the Monument Branch deposits more than 4,300 tons of sediment into Monument Creek. Once the project is completed in 2018, city officials expect only 17 tons of sediment to annually flow downstream into the creek.
"The sediments is burying the wetlands, so that has to be stopped," said Larry Smalls, the executive director of Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, which developed the project's master plan. "Plus, the culverts are being eroded once the sediment gets into Monument Creek, creating damming flood flows into the adjacent areas."
On Monday, city officials provided a media tour of the first phase, which includes channel improvements over a 900-foot stretch with concrete drop structures to slow down water reaches and planting new vegetation. This phase broke ground in late November and is funded by a $700,000 grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The second phase - expected to start during fall 2017 - involves more improvements to the channel between Voyager Parkway and Interstate 25, and the third phase aims to stabilize and improve the channel between Monument Creek and New Santa Fe Regional Trail on the west side of the interstate.
"It's a good project for the city," Smalls said, "and I think it's a good model for what you'll see in the future for projects of this nature."