By Jeff Todd
DENVER (CBS4) – Public opposition to an expensive Denver stormwater project is growing after a political party decided to oppose the project and a legal fund online reached its first goal through crowdsourcing.
The Platte to Park Hill project is estimated around $300 million. The four-part project would prepare northeast Denver for a 100-year storm by improving storm water drainage.
The plan has drawn criticism for digging through a Superfund site in Globeville and turning the City Park Golf Course into a retention pond during major storms.
“We’re hoping to protect a historic golf course that’s in designated park land. And we want the city to go back to the drawing board to figure out how to actually protect homes in Denver from storm water,” said Aaron Goldhamer, the attorney leading the lawsuit against the city. The lawsuit’s GoFundMe page reached a $20,000 goal on Monday.
The city says the project is essential for flood protection and “a century-old network of underground pipes that are aging, undersized and inadequate, the neighborhoods north and east of downtown are the most at-risk for flooding in Denver.”
“Your stormwater and sewer rates were raised by City Council last summer so everyone is paying for it, but only a small section is benefiting from it and really it’s the highway that’s benefiting,” Goldhamer said.
Many suspect the city is spending the money to help CDOT with runoff issues from the proposal to reconstruct Interstate 70 in the area.
The project proposes an open channel to handle floodwaters along 39th Avenue and restructuring the golf course at City Park to hold excessive water. A majority of the time these areas would be dry and open for recreation.
On April 18 the Executive Committee of the Denver Democratic Party adopted a resolution opposing the project. Politicians representing the area at the city and state level told CBS4 they had no comment on the project or growing opposition.
“You’ve seen more and more attention being paid to this. There’s a $300 million cost for this whole project which is a ton of money and we believe it can be used better,” Goldhamer said.
During large rainstorms, homes around 36th Avenue and High Street frequently flood. However, the Cole Neighborhood is split on the project.
“We have not taken an official stand because we do represent the entire neighborhood and there are several varying opinions on the project,” said Jeff Allen the President of the Cole Neighborhood Association. “There are people in favor of the fact it will be a park like amenity. There are definitely people excited about the connectivity it will provide with a multi-use trail and pedestrian trail within the greenway. There are people opposed to the project due to environmental concerns.”
Allen said it’s still unclear if the flooding problems that occurs in the Cole Neighborhood during large rainstorms would still exist after the project.
The city is expected to finalize multiple bids on May 12, then committees will review the final proposals and the City is expected to approve a final bid around June, although one City Councilor told CBS4 if the cost of the project increases the council will need to give the plan a second look.
If approved the City Park Golf Course is expected to close in the fall and reopen in 2019.
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.