Government & Politics  April 18, 2024

Public can weigh in on downtown Estes flood-control plans

ESTES PARK — The public will get a look in May at the progress of a study on options for better flood control in downtown Estes Park.

Propelled by a federal grant obtained in 2022, Estes Park’s Department of Public Works and its consultant have begun a study on how potential changes to the depth or width of the Big Thompson and Fall rivers through the heart of the mountain town could increase capacity and contribute to better flood control. These changes, along with the potential for new bridges at Rockwell Street and East Riverside Drive, would help reduce the risk of flood damage to buildings in the downtown corridor near the confluence of the two rivers.

Narrowing the designated floodplain through the heart of town was part of the impetus for the Downtown Estes Loop project, which is diverting eastbound U.S. Highway 36 traffic onto Riverside Drive, requiring reconstruction of two bridges across the Big Thompson River. 


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A 2016 environmental assessment for the Loop project completed the National Environmental Protection Act clearances for that project, including increasing the capacity of the Big Thompson channel from the Riverside bridge to the east U.S. 36 bridge as well as replacing the bridges on Riverside Drive and Rockwall Street.

In 2018, the town’s Public Works department completed a stormwater management plan that identified a number of other infrastructure projects that it saw as also needed to prevent a flood through downtown Estes Park in the future. 

Community members are invited to contribute ideas for the outcomes at a presentation and forum to be held from 4 to 6 p.m. May 1 in the Town Board Room at Town Hall, 170 MacGregor Ave. The meeting will be streamed live and available for on-demand viewing at

The final report in early 2025 will reflect local selection of preferred alternatives and design construction plans. The report could be used to help the town obtain grant funds in the future for construction projects such as the flood mitigation and river and bridge improvements, as well as infrastructure for new recreation opportunities.

The town is seeking public input on the concept of building terraced parks and downtown floodplain benches that double as pedestrian and bicycle trails. Discussion is also needed to refine alternatives for multiple safe recreation opportunities in the rivers such as tubing, wading, kayaking, and rafting. In addition, fish habitat and passage conditions may be enhanced by changes to river hydraulics that reduce the flood risk.

This project is made possible by a Federal Emergency Management Agency program for flood-mitigation assistance. The FEMA grant program provides funding to communities to assist in their efforts to reduce or eliminate the risk of repetitive flood damage to buildings and structures insurable under the National Flood Insurance Program. Through FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program, this project is supported by a grant issued by the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Besides damage in Estes Park itself, the September 2013 deluge and flood left the tourism-dependent town nearly cut off from the northern Front Range urban corridor at the start of the aspen-viewing season, washing out parts of U.S. 34 and 36 and Colorado Highway 7.

Those unable to attend the May 1 presentation can provide feedback on the alternatives by reviewing presentation materials beginning May 2 on the floodplain project page at, and sending comments to the town’s floodplain administrator, Jennifer Waters, at 970-577-3740 or [email protected]. Subsequent public meetings will occur this summer and fall.

The public will get a look in May at the progress of a study on options for better flood control in downtown Estes Park.

Dallas Heltzell
With BizWest since 2012 and in Colorado since 1979, Dallas worked at the Longmont Times-Call, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post and Public News Service. A Missouri native and Mizzou School of Journalism grad, Dallas started as a sports writer and outdoor columnist at the St. Charles (Mo.) Banner-News, then went to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before fleeing the heat and humidity for the Rockies. He especially loves covering our mountain communities.
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