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Boulder County officials are urging home and landowners to give crews permission to remove debris from creeks that run through their property to prevent additional flooding caused by spring runoff.
Brian Graham, transportation flood recovery coordinator, said the county has identified roughly 400 high-priority parcels of land that crews don't have permission to access to remove debris before spring runoff begins.
Property owners have been asked to sign a right-of-entry form to allow crews to work on their land.
"We're trying to eliminate imminent threats prior to spring runoff and the rainy season," he said. "We're prepared to do that at the locations that we have right of entry, but right now we have very spotty permissions granted and we really need long stretches over the entire corridors (along creeks) to do the work efficiently and actually complete it in advance of our self-imposed deadline on May 1."
Graham added that the May 1 deadline isn't a guarantee that rains and spring runoff won't start sooner, which adds to the urgency of the county's debris removal work.
"Really, Mother Nature will tell us what that deadline is," he said.
The waterways most affected by debris are Fourmile Creek, Left Hand Creek and James Creek, but Graham said there is still debris and sediment in many other creeks, drainageways and culverts within the county.
About 300 of 700 requested high-priority right-of-entry forms have been signed and returned to the county, Graham said.
Graham said officials are having a hard time reaching some landowners to get their permission, and some property owners are concerned about language used in the right-of-entry form.
One clause on the form states that owners will hold the county and its contractors harmless for damages to the property.
Graham said that language is dictated by the agencies who are providing funding for the debris removal, which in most cases is the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"I want to give confidence to property owners to the extent we can, we'll be working with each property owner to understand what specific concerns they have, but we really do need to get this cleaned up, and we can't have a long negotiation," said Transportation Director George Gerstle. "We'll work with them in the field, but we need those sheets of paper signed so we can address the problem."
Gerstle said county officials estimate it will cost $14 million to remove debris throughout the county. He said county officials are still working out how much of that will be reimbursed and from which organizations.
He added that having large swaths of land where crews have permission to remove debris can help cut down on costs because they won't have to "jump all over" the county.
The cost may soon be measured in the amount of damage spring flooding does to roadways and bridges because crews weren't able to remove debris from private property in time.
"If we don't get permission to enter on those properties, the whole road system is at risk, in the canyons particularly," he said. "Really, it's in everybody's interest that they help us prepare for spring."
County officials said they're urging residents to consider the big picture.
Failure to remove debris from one parcel of land can affect dozens of neighbors, Graham said.
"It's hard for folks to really realize or think bigger-picture," he said. "They're thinking about them signing the form and what that means for them personally and all the potential damage to their property, and what we're asking folks to do is think really about their downstream neighbors and even their upstream neighbors."
In the event that additional flooding does occur this spring and summer, Graham said contractors will be on call to respond immediately during emergency situations, such as when bridges or culverts become clogged.
County officials have sent the right-of-entry forms by mail, have talked about them at a series of public meetings this month and have posted the form on bouldercountyflood.org. Graham said county employees have also been calling property owners to answer questions about the form and encourage them to sign it.
Crews and equipment through the county's contract with Young's General Contracting are at the ready, waiting for the call to remove debris.
"They're available to do more work than we're actually able to let them do right now because we don't have the right-of-entry forms," Graham said.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106 or email@example.com.