DENVER (CBS4) – Denver residents sick of driving through waist-deep water may have reason to celebrate.

The city’s drainage systems are in for a big upgrade, but the improvements won’t come without a price.

Residents will have to keep paying higher storm-drainage rates through 2013 to fund flooding renovations.

Specifically, money will go to the Drainage Capital Improvement Plan, the Denver Department of Public Works’ six-year plan to install more neighborhood storm sewers, build outfalls to prevent citywide flooding and expand the capacity of Denver sewers, according to an informational sheet.

Rate increases started on July 1. Denver residents will pay $13.25 more this year than they did in 2010, and they’ll face two more $1.50 increases in 2012 and 2013.

DPW spokesperson Daelene Mix said the department spends $23 million dollars each year to improve city drainage systems. But funds for such projects are running low, a reality that led DPW to drive up storm-sewer rates for the first time since 2006.

“In order to fund the projects that we’ve already committed to, as well as additional projects that have been identified in the six-year improvement plan, we need to make that enterprise fund healthy again,” she said.

Positive results from past projects will influence new renovations. DPW expanded Ferril Lake’s capacity in 2007 by about 4 feet and added a detention pond to trap excess water. The improvements made the lake better able to handle storms Thursday that dropped up to 3 inches of rain in some areas in less than an hour.

“We actually had 2.8 feet of additional water that was contained within Ferril Lake on Thursday,” Mix said.

But despite recent progress, the city still has a long way to go to address all of its flooding concerns. Mix said three years of increased rates will raise about $60 million, but the city needs $1.2 billion to make all the needed changes.

“This is an ongoing to process that isn’t going to even be resolved in six years despite the increase,” she said.

100 4261 ferril lak surcharge 7 7 11 Flash Flood Problems Sinking, But Not Without A Price

(credit: Denver Public Works)

Still, even if Denver had $1.2 billion to spend on renovations, Mix said flooding is unavoidable when rainfall is as heavy as it was Thursday.

“Regardless of the condition, age and shape of the drainage system, it can’t handle that kind of flow,” she said.

Mix said underpasses and low-lying areas are especially prone to flooding. The Ferril Lake project was specifically designed to contain flooding in downstream neighborhoods like City Park, Park Hill and Five Points, according to an informational sheet.

Written by Andrew Gibson, CBS4 intern


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