Boulder County is prepared to coordinate the debris removal, repairs and planning that's needed to try to prevent another round of flooding through unincorporated parts of the county when spring snowmelt comes, Transportation Department director George Gerstle said Wednesday.

But it's important, Gerstle said, for everyone to understand that the work will require the cooperation of thousands of owners of property crossed by those rivers and creeks. It also will require cooperation of what he called "an alphabet soup" of decision-making local, state and federal agencies. By itself, Boulder County itself "doesn't have the funding to solve the problem" by itself.

Doug Dunn, right, a water resource specialist, talks to Tim Shafer, a wildlife biologist for the county,about removing a tree for stream realignment.
Doug Dunn, right, a water resource specialist, talks to Tim Shafer, a wildlife biologist for the county,about removing a tree for stream realignment. ( Cliff Grassmick )

Gerstle and Julie McKay, a Transportation Department staff planner, presented the Boulder County Planning Commission with a status report on the Comprehensive Creek Planning Initiative, a county-led project to stabilize the creeks and rivers flooded in September.

The floods changed stream channel alignments, elevations, flows and capacities, and the tree limbs, dirt, silt, mud, rocks and other debris deposited in those streams pose threats of new flooding.

For the post-September work and watershed planning to be successful, Gerstle said, "it'll be a matter of everybody working together, including property owners, to solve the problems."


Boulder County has conducted seven community meetings, sessions attended by a total of more than 650 residents, to identify issues in unincoporated areas along stretches of streams such as the St. Vrain River, Left Hand Creek, Dry Creek, Boulder Creek, South Boulder Creek, Coal Creek and Rock Creek.

McKay said among the top concerns raised were the remaining debris piles that could act as dams and impede stream flows, as well as the flood-deposited sediment that's raised river and creek elevations and reduced streams' capacities to carry water.

Other concerns, McKay said, included shifts in stream channels, the post-flood stability of slopes, blocked culverts, eroded banks, the potential of future breeches, and the vulnerability of bridges.

McKay and Gerstle said the county is looking at short-term mitigation measures that need to be achieved before the spring runoff of the snowmelt, as well as long-term stream and watershed management options.

Meanwhile, McKay said, "the county's still working through what we can do, what we can get reimbursed for."

Gerstle said Boulder County is pursuing several possible government funding sources for the work that's needed on both public and private properties, including discussions with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

However, "it's clear that nobody has all the money for everything" that'll be needed, Gerstle said.

John Fryar can be reached at 303-684-5211 or