Floodplain Management


Floodplain Management Program Notes

Bill DeGroot, P. E.
Chief, Floodplain Management Program

25 Years . . .

January 31, 1999, will mark my 25th anniversary with the District. While I don't intend to wax nostalgic in this column, I do want to briefly highlight a couple of items of interest. In that 25 years we have seen the District's population grow by about 850,000 people, along with all of the structures needed to support that population, while the number of structures located in identified 100-year floodplains is approximately 4000 fewer than 25 years ago. This is the result of the District's long standing policy of correcting past mistakes through the planning, design, construction and maintenance of flood mitigation projects; while preventing new development in floodplains through the Floodplain Management Program. Of course none of this could have happened without the participation of our local government partners.

In the early years I spent a lot of time working with local government staffs, appointed boards and elected officials trying to convince them of the wisdom of adopting floodplain regulations, and a little later, of joining the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Now all 31 of the communities within the District with identified floodplains have adopted floodplain regulations and are participating in the NFIP.

I remember explaining the NFIP to the Cherry Hills Village (a wealthy Denver suburb) city council. When I got to the part about flood insurance being required on loans for structures located in the floodplain, a member of the audience asked what the requirements were if you paid cash for your house.

In the early years most developers resisted attempts to manage the flood hazards. Today there are many developers, although not all of them for sure, who recognize that not only are floodplains hazardous locations for structures, but also that they can be terrific amenities to their developments by providing open space, recreation, etc. which sell to potential customers.

In fact, the Colorado Association of Stormwater and Floodplain Managers presented its 1998 Grand Award to a development, Rock Creek Ranch in Superior, for its floodplain preservation and stormwater management efforts. All previous awards had gone to government sponsored projects, with most of those projects completed to fix problems created by developers.

Work products I am proud of include:

We send annual flood hazard information brochures to 23,000 addresses located in or near identified 100-year floodplains.
We have an outstanding flood detection and notification, and flood documentation program.
Almost no new structures located in identified floodplains over the last 25 years.
Our maintenance eligibility program has raised the quality of the facilities designed and constructed by others, primarily developers, thus assuring lower long term maintenance costs.

The list goes on but I will stop here.

I do want to express appreciation to Scott Tucker for giving me enough rope to hang myself on occasion, without ever actually tying it to a tree.

. . . and Counting

Gazing into the old crystal ball can be fun as long as you don't start believing what you think you see. Therefore, I am not going to make any predictions about the future. I am going to mention a few events which, if they happen, will have a definite impact on our future.

A little over a year ago the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) staff developed a proposed Map Modernization Plan. There are 37 objectives associated with the plan and I'm not going to begin to discuss them here. However, it is important to note that, while FEMA can implement some of the objectives within its existing budget, full implementation is going to require significant funding from Congress. The thing to look for in 1999 is whether the first round of needed funding is in the President's budget, and, if it is, how Congress responds.

One of FEMA's 37 objectives is to turn some of the responsibility for Flood Insurance Rate Map production and maintenance over to qualified local governments through Cooperating Technical Communities (CTC) agreements. We are in discussions with FEMA to become one of those CTCs. Will our discussions be successful in 1999?

One local one. I have been trying for five years to negotiate intergovernmental agreements between Denver, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Commerce City, Adams County and the District for the implementation of the Irondale Gulch master plan. About a year ago high-ranking officials from the Arsenal, Denver and Commerce City formed the Win-Win Coalition to identify and resolve issues surrounding the gradual change of the Arsenal from a nerve gas and pesticide production facility to a wildlife refuge. Resolution of drainage problems is one of those issues the coalition is concentrating on, and 1999 is the year it should get done.

Staff Notes

David Mallory's addition to the Floodplain Management Program has been very helpful to our efforts. Not only has he assumed responsibility for the maintenance eligibility program, but he has helped out with other, unanticipated (see crystal ball, above), problems during his first year on the job.

Kevin Stewart continues to assure that we have the best possible flood detection system, and he continues to be in demand as a national expert in this field (see his list of professional activities). If you check out our web site at www.udfcd.org you will also see Kevin's handiwork.


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