Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper visited Ute Pass Elementary school Friday, August 31, 2012 to get a report on initial flood damage and subsequent drainage structures put in place by the El Paso County Public Services Department to protect the school from flooding off the Waldo Canyon burn scar.
Representatives from Ute Pass Elementary, Manitou Springs School District 14, the United States Forest Service, El Paso County Public Services and the El Paso County Office of Emergency Management briefed the Governor on the specific challenges and drainage history at this site. County Engineer Andre Brackin and Public Services Operations Manager Max Kirschbaum explained the barricade system and the installation process. The Office of Emergency Management provided an overview of the added risk to residents in the Ute Pass Area for years to come as a result of the Waldo Canyon fire.
Ute Pass Elementary school sits just south of Highway 24 at the base of the one many watersheds impacted by the Waldo Canyon burn scar. Flooding had already damaged the school playground and even small amounts of rain threatened the safety of students and faculty heading back to school from summer vacation.
A moderate rainfall event in July sent flood waters rushing down Sand Gulch. Debris, ash and blackened logs picked up a full size horse trailer and crushed it inside a highway culvert just above the school. Mud flow from that event forced closure of Highway 24, heavily damaged the playground and muddy water even pushed into the building.
Responding to a call for assistance from Manitou Springs School District 14, the El Paso County Commissioners approved emergency funding for a TrapBag barricade system to direct flooding away from the school. El Paso County Public Services completed construction and installation of 500 linear feet of the flood control barrier in less than four days. The project was completed at a cost of just under $40,000, and was paid for in a joint cost-share agreement between El Paso County and Manitou Springs School District 14.
The Governor inspected the completed drainage barrier, which now protects the adjacent playground and classrooms, and complimented all of agencies the involved on their prompt completion of the needed improvements so classes could resume on schedule.
Ute Pass Elementary students on recess eagerly greeted the Governor and thanked him for taking an interest in their school.
For more information on the National Flood Insurance Program go to: www.floodsmart.gov