Gilbert White was a world renowned expert on flood management and is widely respected as the Father of Modern Flood Management. In addition to his extensive research and public service, he was an enthusiastic and energetic professor at the University of Colorado Boulder for many years.
From his biography, we have two insightful case studies from Boulder, Colorado and Tulsa, Oklahoma which show us that communities are best served when we work with Mother Nature, using land use planning and zoning to the maximum extent possible, to keep people and buildings out of harm’s instead of costly structural solutions, such as dams.
The history mirrors almost perfectly the development decisions currently happening in Boulder. Accepted engineering flow models over-predicted the flow capacity of Coyote Creek and therefore underestimated the flooding areas. These model predictions were used to justify new development; much like CU and Hogan-Pancost developers are doing now.
Back almost 30 years ago, when I was on the City Council, we engaged in a very detailed study of the major drainages that flow through Boulder, and the likely damage that could result from floods. Our objective was to come up with appropriate risk mitigation standards. Council member Spense Havlick and I even went to CSU and tried to walk across their artificial flume at various flow rates and depths to test our ability to walk through a flood.
For 20 years, it has been known that hundreds of homes in south Boulder are in danger of flooding from South Boulder Creek, and the city has spent millions developing a $40 million plan to mitigate the problem. A major component of the plan is a detention pond west of U.S. 36 designed to store a flood’s peak flows and release them slowly over time.
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