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River Restoration Project Forcing Some Basalt Residents From Homes

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Construction underway in Basalt (credit: CBS)

Construction underway in Basalt (credit: CBS)

BASALT, Colo. (CBS4) – They noticed the flood damage along the Front Range, and now people in one town on the Western Slope want to fix their river. But it’s coming at a cost, not just through taxes, but dozens of families are being told to leave their homes.

The project started about a week before the flooding on the Front Range. It’s believed possible flooding is what propelled voters, but residents on western side of the Roaring Fork Valley aren’t happy about being told to move.

Every spring it’s a question of “if” the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park will flood.

“Let’s say it’s been here about 55 to 60 years. Probably six or seven times over that period of time, so about every 10 years there would be floods,” Basalt Town Manager Mie Scanlon said.

The last time it flooded was nine years ago. Town officials say the levy protecting the trailer park is damaging the rest of the riverbank.

“You can see where that bank has been scarred on the other side,” Scanlon said.

The town bought the trailer park with a nonprofit almost three years ago. Despite being told they might need to go, many in the neighborhood feel the town is treating them unfairly.

“It’s been probably one of the most difficult things for the community to sort of understand in that there is no way that we could ever get the flood plain or the floodway improved until the trailers were moved,” Scanlon said.

The town is paying each family at most $26,000 and helping them find a new home by April.

The river restoration project started in September without a guarantee it’d be fully funded until the rest of the money was overwhelmingly approved by voters on Tuesday.

“The residents actually saw the need to get the project completed and sort of stepped up to the plate for the town.”

The town will now build parks on either side of the river made to handle peak run-off season.

“It’s to allow the river to really behave the way it was meant to behave.”

The total project will end up costing $7.1 million. About $1 million is set aside to compensate the residents who have been told to move, but they’re not going to go easily. There’s still about 20 residents the town needs to finalize the plans with.

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