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September 12th is the 10th anniversary of the devastating 2013 flood. In Longmont, all waterways were flooded with development situated near St. Vrain and Left Hand Creeks experiencing the worst damages. Where open spaces and agricultural areas were impacted, the land was able to absorb the flood waters in a way the built environment wasn't.
A big reason areas like Sandstone Ranch and the adjacent Peschel property were able to withstand the flood is due to their having a healthy riparian area. Riparian areas serve a number of crucial functions such as filtering runoff, slowing down flood waters, and preventing erosion. In addition, while riparian areas are estimated to make up less than 2% of the area of Colorado, over 80% of species in the state depend on them at some point in their lives.
Longmont’s reach of St. Vrain Creek is particularly important as it has been identified by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as having the highest diversity of native fish in the Front Range. St. Vrain Creek also plays host to 63 species of special concern listed in the Environmental Resources Element of the Boulder County Comprehensive Plan. It also provides a critical movement corridor for wildlife traveling between the mountains and the plains. The deer and bobcats at Sandstone came through our St. Vrain and Left-hand Creek corridors.
Following the 2013 flood, Longmont embarked on an ambitious and very expensive flood mitigation project designed to remove land surrounding St Vrain Creek from the 100-year flood plain. This land includes 800+ acres of private land that was previously undevelopable. Owners of these properties are understandably anxious to start developing and making big profits from our public investment in flood mitigation. However, the extreme damage the 2013 flood caused to developments abutting St. Vrain Creek that were built before the establishment of the setback tells a cautionary tale of building too close to waterways. That's why any and all future development along this and other waterways needs to be set back.