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City to Receive Award for Restoration of Fountain Creek

Three unique clients, with common goals, came together to deliver 3,000 linear feet of urban creek restoration along US24 between 8th Street and 21st Street, while demonstrating design for a sustainable creek with adequate flood control. Controlling the mine tailing pollutants and creating wetlands improves water quality in Fountain Creek and downstream. The design also provides for future roadway needs on neighboring US 24 and the development of Gold Hill Mesa by including room for additional water treatment and expansion of the highway. CDOT and Gold Hill Mesa Partners approached the City with the offer of partnering to make improvements to Fountain Creek that would benefit all entities. CDOT maintains and has plans to expand US 24, which is the city's primary east/west corridor, paralleling Fountain Creek. The City of Colorado Springs was interested in reducing the flooding and erosion caused by Fountain Creek along US 24. Fountain Creek's existing flood plain envelops much of US 24, hundreds of homes and many businesses. Gold Hill Mesa Partners is remediating a former ore processing mill site located adjacent to Fountain Creek, through Colorado's Voluntary Clean-Up Program (VCUP). The mine tailings proximity to Fountain Creek has impacted the surface water due to eroding tails and sloughing of stream banks composed of tails. The VCUP requires the land owner to remove or stabilize tailings within the floodplain and permits contaminated soils to be relocated to their original location within the Gold Hill Mesa development site. The City considers improvements to Fountain Creek a major priority, as most of the City's runoff eventually ends up in Fountain Creek before traveling to downstream neighbor communities.

The project was designed by CH2MHill. Turf reinforcement mat was used instead of concrete for mine tailing stabilization to the 50-year flood elevation. Several innovative landscape design elements were incorporated; these including replanting harvested native trees that were stored during construction, use of larger removed trees in the design as drop structures which provided wildlife habitat elements, maintaining an existing tree "curtain", use of over 40,000 willows to increase slope stability, introduction of a low flow trench to create variable water speeds within the cobble channel lining, and large wetland aquatic areas uniquely designed in several different forms both with and without a direct connection to the creek to test the function and viability for future projects. Another innovative design element was use of buried environmentally green recycled concrete rip rap from the old mill site, donated by a project partner, used for slope stability.

Careful continued monitoring of the creek and its design elements in future years will allow future restoration projects to incorporate the successful elements of the Fountain Creek Restoration project into their designs. This project also serves as stepping stone for decisions on future design elements with community stakeholders and permitting agencies.

The Restoration of Fountain Creek project lies between two City of Colorado Springs Community Improvements Program (SCIP) projects on Fountain Creek. Several goals were to:

  • Promote environmental stewardship
  • Reduce flooding, erosion and sedimentation
  • Improve water quality and address environmental issues
  • Control pollutants and contaminants
  • Create wetlands and a stable riparian environment
  • Provide for an expandable design
  • Minimize impacts to previous improvements
  • Create a demonstration project to showcase Best Management Practices
  • Allow for future US24 improvements and Gold Hill Mesa access

The grass-roots local Fountain Creek Restoration Committee (www.restorefountaincreek.org) is working on upstream of this project to enhance water quality and aquatic habitat through the City of Manitou Springs. The Fountain Creek Watershed District (www.fountain-crk.org) is working downstream of this project to restore environment conditions and reduce sedimentation and flooding between Colorado Springs and Pueblo. Without the Fountain Creek Restoration at Gold Hill Mesa, other efforts within the Fountain Creek watershed would be less successful, and the redevelopment and reclamation of the mine tailing that form Gold Hill Mesa - an eyesore visible from Downtown for nearly 70 years - would have been incomplete.

View April 2011