- How do I benefit from the Authority and its projects?
- Why isn't everyone in the County being asked to pay for these improvements?
- Why is this project being undertaken when the economy is doing so poorly?
- This project will benefit private developers and property owners?
- Won't people who come later pay less?
- Isn't there already a flood control project that provides protection?
- Aren't these fees illegal?
Many people have contacted us seeking to understand how their particular property will benefit from these improvements. While the improvements may or may not benefit a particular property, or its owner, the improvements will benefit the Lower Boxelder Community in many ways.
Floods are enormously expensive for local governments and utility services. Stream crossings may be eroded or washed away and have to be reconstructed and/or cleared of debris. Sanitary sewers may become hydraulically overloaded due to interception of floodwater causing backup of raw sewage into homes and businesses. Unseen internal costs will accrue to local government in areas such as accounting, finance and management to account for and deal with the increase in work load due to flood response and recovery.
Larimer County, the Town of Wellington, the City of Fort Collins, and the Town of Timnath each have bridges on Boxelder Creek, its tributaries, or its overflow downstream of East Prospect Street. When stream crossings are sized for replacement, flood flows have to be taken into account in the design. Reduction in flood flow estimates due to flood hazard mitigation by the Authority will allow safe design of considerably less expensive bridges.
The improvements planned for construction by the Authority will reduce or eliminate the hazard of flooding to many existing houses, two schools, and several government buildings located in the Lower Boxelder Basin. Many commercial buildings near the intersection of State Highway 14 and Interstate Highway 25 are subject to flooding and will not be subject to flood damages as well. While damage reduction benefits the owners of the respective properties, the public will also benefit from the increased economic vitality of these areas. Owners who are freed from the burdens of flood insurance and increased land use regulation are more inclined and enabled to put money into their properties.
Asking everyone in the County to pay for these improvements would require asking communities some distance away to pay for benefits in a community that they have little connection with.The governing bodies of the City of Fort Collins, Larimer County, and the Town of Wellington are asking owners whose property is hydrologically connected in the Lower Boxelder Basin to help pay for improvements to mitigate flood hazards in that basin. Folks in other parts of the County, such as Estes Park, have very little connection to flood damages, commercial vitality or disruption in transportation due to flooding in the Lower Boxelder Valley.
Work leading to formation of the Authority started about 5 years ago. Public works projects have enormous lead times that are required for studies, programming, permitting, design and institutional arrangements.Flood control projects are particularly burdensome in this regard, since they involve floodplain regulatory requirements and permitting issues having to do with the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, both of which contain wetland protection requirements. Because of the long lead times, it would be inefficient and extremely time consuming if local government projects started and stopped based on economic cycles.
The projects to be built by the Boxelder Authority are for the purpose of lessening damages on existing public and private buildings in the event of a flood. Most of the buildings subject to flooding were built before a floodplain was identified by FEMA. Some owners bought land and buildings which was placed in the larger floodplain that was adopted by FEMA in 2006.
There is no assessment of fees for properties continuing in farming or grazing use, since the utility of vacant properties used for farming or grazing will increase only modestly upon its removal from the floodplain. Owners of newly constructed buildings, however, will be required to pay a development fee at the time of building permit issuance.The development fee provides a means by which those properties can buy into the project that existing properties have already paid toward. The development fee represents the equity which owners of already improved properties have already purchased. By paying development fees, owners of new impervious surfaces will pay the same amount as others who began paying sometime earlier. The development fee thus be thought of as a “catch up” fee.
The Soil Conservation Service or SCS (now known as the Natural Resources Conservation Service or NRCS) built the Boxelder Watershed Project in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. That project consisted of 5 flood control detention structures and one small structure whose purpose was to provide flood control to farmlands in upper parts of the Watershed. The structures built as part of that project are between 5 and ten miles north of Wellington. Their hydrologic effects were taken into account when the hydrologic studies were conducted for the currently adopted FEMA maps. If they were not in place, floodplains in the Lower Basin would be very much larger than they are now.The Authority Project has been designed to further reduce flood damage potential for areas which are not served by the SCS Project. Existing development both in the Town of Wellington, and the already developed industrial and commercial area west of I-25 near Highway 14 is subject to flood damages from Boxelder Creek and its tributaries that exist downstream of the SCS Project Area. The new improvements have been carefully planned to mitigate flood damage potential in both of these locations.
Stormwater utility fees have been used in a number of Larimer County communities for nearly thirty years. Throughout the United States, stormwater utilities are a common method of funding stormwater management in specific drainage basins. Stormwater utilities are allowed under state statutes and are used in many cities in Colorado. In Larimer County, the City of Fort Collins collects stormwater fees from 33,000 residential and nearly 7,000 non-residential properties. Similarly, Loveland collects fees from almost 11,000 residential and 1,300 non-residential properties. In the unincorporated portion of the West Vine Stormwater Basin, Larimer County has collected stormwater fees from 660 residential and 72 non-residential properties since 1998.