By Philip P. DiStefano and Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde
Do you remember the devastating floods of 2013? It was national news when President Obama and Governor Hickenlooper declared states of emergency here and in neighboring counties.
In the space of a few days, more than 14 inches of rain fell in Boulder County, driving Boulder Creek to the highest water level since 1894. The resulting floodwaters wreaked havoc in our region and caused deaths, destroyed houses and significant damage. to critical infrastructure.
From the devastation and wreckage, the people of Boulder did what we have so often done in the face of tragedy: we came together to help those who lost everything and worked to rebuild our community.
Now, as severe weather becomes more frequent due to climate change, the University of Colorado Boulder and the City of Boulder are joining together to proactively ensure our neighbors and environment are protected from flooding. dangerous.
In September 2021, Boulder City Council annexed CU Boulder South to the city limits because the location of the property can provide flood protection that will protect 2,300 downstream residents and 1,100 homes. When completed, the flood mitigation project at CU Boulder South will provide protection that would prevent much of the destruction caused by a weather event like the one in 2013.
For the thousands of residents and business owners who live and work downstream from CU Boulder South, there is no time to waste. We must move forward with the urgently needed flood protection made possible by this annexation.
The design and permitting process for the city’s flood protection project at the site is well advanced, with city staff currently working on the 60% design phase. Construction is currently expected to begin in 2024 and be completed by 2026.
In other words, if the voters agree.
This fall, voters will be asked to consider a ballot initiative that aims to prevent this project. If passed, the ballot would undo annexation and undo the result of decades of work by city staff, numerous city and county boards and commissions, university officials, elected leaders and hundreds of members. from the community who have been involved in the engagement and outreach along the way. .
Reversing the annexation of CU Boulder South would threaten progress and the values dear to the people of Boulder. Critically, this would bring an immediate halt to flood mitigation that will protect thousands of lives and property. As we tackle the effects of climate change locally, nationally and globally, it is incumbent upon us to act to reduce the potentially deadly impacts of increasingly severe weather on our city.
The adverse effects of climate change are not the only challenge facing our city. We also need to address the lack of adequate housing supply in Boulder. For many who work and study in Boulder, accessible housing is simply out of reach. As CU Boulder Chancellor and Boulder City Manager, we see every day how this challenge affects our students and workforce.
This annexation of CU Boulder South now gives us the opportunity to responsibly increase the housing stock as it envisions that a portion of the property, outside of the floodplain, will be used for approximately 1,100 housing units for university employees and non-student students. It also designates five acres of land for the housing of all members of the community who qualify for affordable housing based on income level.
It’s the right thing to do. This will reduce pressure on the housing market, reduce carbon emissions by decreasing commuting, and ensure that more people who work and study in Boulder can also live and raise their families here.
Finally, the annexation of CU Boulder South was founded on a legally binding agreement that recognizes the important role that CU Boulder South plays in the quality of life for nearby residents and local wildlife. That’s why the annexation designates 119 acres, or nearly 40% of the property, as permanent open space, protecting natural habitats and ensuring continued public access to the property for recreation.
The CU Boulder South Annex represents the best of Boulder: protecting the safety of people and open spaces, creating urgently needed housing, and a commitment to public collaboration. Boulder residents have the opportunity in November to uphold these values by voting NO to the initiative that would reverse the annexation of CU Boulder South.
Philip P. DiStefano is the chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde is the City Manager for the City of Boulder.