Editor’s note: In the next few weeks, the Courier will look at water issues in Teller and El Paso Counties. We’ll also hear from officials in Teller County in the series.
In the blame game fostered by the axiom that water flows downhill, Woodland Park city manager takes exception to the charge that the city is responsible for the turbulence downstream on Fountain Creek.
“I’m not going to deny that the City of Woodland Park, or development in the county, has increased the volume of water, the number of gallons, but the law only requires us not to increase the flow rate,” Buttery said.
Within hours of a two-day rainstorm in July, Buttery points to the dry and sandy creek bed between Walmart and the Crystola bar and grill. “That’s because the sand is capturing that moisture,” he said. “Even though we’ve had all this rain there is nothing flowing down the creek. Nothing.”
Driving along Fountain Creek, Buttery looked at other tributaries on the watershed that contribute to the flooding in Crystola. “Water is coming from a ditch line, off their property, Crystola Creek, all this hillside, houses and roads contributing to the runoff,” he said.
In addition, water flowing along the side of CR 21 is from Teller County and does not originate in Woodland Park, he said. “This water is all coming from the Fountain Creek Watershed, all from the county; in one place there is a little bit of city water from Grey Horse Ranch through a detention pond.”
The people in Crystola say the flow is coming from Safeway and Walmart. While Safeway has no detention pond, on the recommendation of hydraulic engineers, the flow from the asphalt is intended to get ahead of the flow from upstream. “It gets the water in front of the flood wave. I can argue both sides of that but this is what was accepted in 1997,” he said.
As for Walmart, the company built a large detention facility. “All the water generated from the parking lot and rooftops goes into that pond and gets released in a controlled rate to the creek,” Buttery said.
However, a key issue in the situation is the width of the creek bed, which, between Walmart and the Crystola bar is nearly 50 feet wide. “Look at how much space there is for the water to flow,” he said. “As we get closer to Green Mountain Falls the creek is constricted. Many of the homeowners built their houses close to a little tiny creek. You can’t cram a 50-year storm into a one-year channel.”
As the creek flows toward Green Mountain Falls, through Pinecrest Stables, the bed narrows even more. “None of this water is from Woodland Park because it just hasn’t made it here yet. It will eventually get here but it’s not just Woodland Park,” he said. “Water is coming from the hillsides of the forest, from the other side of the road, in a beaver slide. When it rains hard up in the mountains water comes flying down these hills because they’re so steep.”