Academy supports Monument Branch repair project

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. --

The Air Force Academy is taking part in a $4 million project managed by the City of Colorado Springs and Colorado Springs Utilities to reduce sediment buildup in Monument Creek.


The three-phase project was identified as a high priority in the Monument Creek Watershed Restoration Master Plan, developed through a partnership between the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, the City, El Paso County, the Air Force Academy, and Colorado Springs Utilities.


The plan specifies repairs on Monument Branch between Voyager Parkway and Monument Creek, an area dumping more than 4,300 tons of sediment into the waterway each year.


“We’re grateful for the outstanding relationship we have with the City of Colorado Springs and the collaboration that took place to develop the Monument Creek Watershed Restoration Master Plan," said Col. Ken Ohlson, commander of the 10th Mission Support Group.  "Restoration efforts based on the plan will have a positive impact on regional storm water issues."


The repairs will help protect the floodplain and riparian habitat on the Academy, and “address the significant threat to utilities and structures that stormflow pass through as they cross I-25,” said Larry Small, the executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

Phases one and two will improve approximately 900 feet of channel and shore up erosion between Voyager Parkway and Interstate 25. Phase three will stabilize and improve the channel between Monument Creek and upstream to the New Santa Fe Regional Trail at the Academy.


"A significant portion of the watershed's runoff flows through the Academy," Ohlson said. “Any restoration work will not only improve the Academy's natural resources and infrastructure impacted by flooding and erosion over the years, but will have a lasting  impact on the communities downstream as well."


The Academy tried to stabilize the channel in 2009, but heavy runoff and sediment destroyed those improvements in 2013 and 2015.


The Academy contributed $50,000 to a $300,000 grant that funded the Monument Creek Watershed Restoration Master Plan. The City of Colorado Springs contributed $150,000; El Paso County contributed $50,000 and Colorado Springs Utilities contributed $50,000. The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District contributed a $300,000 grant.


Once all phases of the project are complete along Monument Branch and the channel is stabilized, the city estimates that a more normal 17 tons of sediment per year will flow into Monument Creek.


“Stormwater is a regional problem that does not respect property boundaries,” said Brian Mihlbachler, the Academy’s natural resources manager. “The master plan highlights many opportunities for local government partners, organizations, developers and private land owners to systematically tackle a regional problem that affects the Academy.” 


Phase One: Now through March, between Voyager Parkway and I-25

Improvements include concrete drop structures to reduce the energy of runoff that erodes the channel, regrading the channel to reestablish a floodplain, and planting vegetation to provide habitat and protect city infrastructure.


Phase one is funded by a federal Natural Resources Conservation Service grant, Colorado Springs Utilities, and city funds dedicated to storm water projects, at a cost of $1.3 million.


Phase Two: Now through 2018, between Voyager Parkway and I-25

Improvements focus on smaller repairs to the channel near Voyager Parkway and large repairs close to I-25 where severe erosion has occurred. The work is expected to improve habitat and significantly reduce the amount of sediment entering Monument Creek.


Phase two is expected to cost $1.1 million.


Phase Three: Now through 2018, Monument Creek to the New Santa Fe Regional Trail

Improvements include stabilizing the channel between Monument Creek and upstream to the New Santa Fe Regional Trail west of I-25. This section of channel is approximately 2,500 feet long and had deteriorated due to significant erosion and sediment buildup.


Phase three is expected to cost $1.3 million.