In a rare move, El Paso County is turning down a $1.3 million federal grant for flood recovery amid concerns about meeting its deadline.
The money would have paid for channel realignment along a stretch of Fountain Creek disturbed by flooding in 2013 and 2015.
But county officials, doubting that the project could be done by the September deadline, have declined the offer, said Brian Olson, the county's executive director of facilities and strategic infrastructure management.
The work was intended to prevent erosion and mitigate the effects of heavy rainfall.
County commissioners met with staff in an executive session Thursday to discuss the award, which the state offered to the county in 2016 as part of the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program.
The staff has notified the Colorado Department of Local Affairs that the county won't accept the grant, Olson said.
Last year, the county received no responses when it requested proposals to design the project, he said.
The grant was intended to repair damage from the 2013 floods along a stretch of creek near the Hanson trailhead at the southern end of Fountain Creek Regional Park.
But in addition to concerns about meeting the grant deadline, county officials said they worried about the project's longevity.
About $600,000 was spent repairing the trailhead two years after the 2013 floods, but the next flood washed away all that work about two weeks later, Olson said.
Residents near the trailhead face no major flooding risks, though erosion remains a concern, said Fountain City Manager Scott Trainor and Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.
"All up and down that creek, we need erosion control," Trainor said.
Erosion, surface runoff and streambed degradation are blamed for excess sedimentation and substandard water quality that have affected downstream communities, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency claims in a lawsuit against Colorado Springs.
The city has signed an agreement with Pueblo County, committing $460 million over 20 years to build more than 70 major stormwater projects, including many designed to detain excess flows and eliminate creek sedimentation. Colorado Springs officials could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
The county's rejection of the $1.3 million grant won't affect planned repairs to the Hanson trailhead, which is expected to reopen next year. Erosion wrenched a large footbridge from the creek's banks and surrounded it with sandbars carved out by floodwaters.
The trail repairs will be funded by about $1.4 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and about $370,000 allocated in a ballot initiative county voters approved in November.
The rejected grant would have addressed only a fraction of Fountain Creek problems, county Engineer Jennifer Irvine said in a statement.
"What is needed is a much more comprehensive program to stabilize the creek from one end to the other," Irvine said.