South Platte River Restoration Project Secures Funding

The project will mainly focus on restoring the ecosystem and improving the risk of flooding for certain areas.

DENVER — Colorado leaders on Friday announced $350 million in federal funding for the Denver and Adams County South Platte River project.

Mile High Flood District Government Relations Manager David Bennetts said restoring and enhancing the ecosystem is the primary focus of this project.

“It will completely transform the river and all adjacent areas with ecosystem restoration projects,” he said.

Right now the South Platte River needs a lot of work.

“We have invasive species on the trees. We have garbage buried in the banks. It’s not a healthy environment for birds, for anything else,” Bennetts said. “So it’s a chance to go back and work out old improvements, make new improvements and really look at the health of the river, the access to the river for the people who want to use it, trails, bike paths, parks, things like that.Also take care of some flood risk in a few areas where we have spills.

He said the funding will primarily focus on restoring the ecosystem along 6.5 miles of the South Platte River and creating 450 acres of wetlands.

“Birds move from Mexico to Canada up and down the Platte River,” Bennetts said. “So improving that will really improve their habitats and give them a better place to be when they travel and migrate.”

But, memories of the 1965 flood along this river are still fresh in Bennetts’ mind.

“Really, at the time, the idea was to get the floodwaters through the city as fast as possible and in doing so, we really didn’t take care of the ecosystem as well as we should have “, did he declare.

The 1965 flood killed around 20 people and pushed water into local neighborhoods.

Dams have since been built, but Bennetts said there is still a 1% chance in some areas of having a flood event.

This funding will focus on flood-prone areas along Weir Gulch and Harvard Gulch. He said there were about 350 structures in Weir Gulch that they wanted to remove from the floodplain.

The intention is to build improvements, not displace people, but Bennetts said they don’t yet know if that will be possible.

“No matter what you’re building, there’s always a chance that an event will top it,” he said. “We’re also making improvements to flood risk along the South Platte River, as part of that, but the main focus on the Platte is the ecosystem.”

He said preliminary work was underway and other projects would begin soon.

“Funding is good for as long as it takes, but the intention is to fully implement all work over the next 5-10 years,” Bennetts said.

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