Homeowner on flood watch

Photo by Christopher Tomlinson—Bob Richardson stands on a manhole cover near the intersection of Walnut Avenue and Walnut Court that pops when water goes through the drainage system during rainstorms. The runoff cascades over his and a neighbor’s property, Richardson says.

SPECIAL TO THE SENTINEL—Water flows from a popped manhole, above, near the Walnut Court property of Bob Richardson in these undated photos. The storm runoff has resulted in standing water, top, which has rotted some siding and seeped into his rental home, Richardson said.

Since 2004, Bob Richardson has been seeking a solution to runoff water that pools up more than a foot deep in the backyard of his rental home, where water seeps into the foundation and the home’s crawl space.

The home on Walnut Court is tucked into a cul-de-sac, and a nearby manhole cover pops off during heavy rains, sending a torrent of water downhill and through his property and his neighbors’ land.

Richardson has seen some relief after the Grand Valley Drainage District helped create a swale, or a wide, shallow ditch in the home’s backyard, and cut away part of the home’s patio to allow water to drain better. However, Richardson still winces when he sees storm clouds forming above the Grand Valley, an indication that runoff water on city streets probably is headed toward his rental home.

After reading a story last month in The Daily Sentinel about how two Grand Junction City Council members, Bill Pitts and Jim Doody, had drainage problems fixed after they joined the board, Richardson questioned whether the drainage problems that occur on his property can be fixed for good.

“I don’t want to get anybody in trouble; I just want a solution,” he said. “I’m reluctant to do any repairs (on the home) until the issues are taken care of. What’s the point?”

Richardson has owned the rental home since 2004, but neighbor Bruce Palmer, whose home is uphill from Richardson’s, has documented flooding issues that cross both properties since 1984.

During rainstorms, the pressure of water traveling through a larger pipe into an undersized pipe blows the top off of a manhole cover near the corner of Walnut Court and Walnut Avenue, Richardson and Palmer said. Water cascades through Palmer’s property and down to Richardson’s lot. Over time, the standing water rotted some of the siding on Richardson’s home’s and seeped inside. Richardson said he installed a ventilation system to air out the space.

After the most recent flooding in August 2010, Richardson said, he had to purchase a new chest freezer to replace the one on the rental home’s patio that had been rendered useless by water damage.

Richardson said that although he has gotten some response from the city and the drainage district, it isn’t enough. He said he wants a permanent fix.

In 2009, the city of Grand Junction offered a fix, by pricing out the costs of construction and supplies to create a short retaining wall around his home in an attempt to flood-proof the house, to the tune of $8,900. Richardson declined the offer because he didn’t believe it would fix the problem and only would send the water to downhill neighbors.

“I felt like they just put a number out there and they didn’t care if I did the improvements or not,” he said.

Bret Guillory, utility engineer for Grand Junction, said the work that city engineers suggested for Richardson is similar to runoff mitigation that has been done for other landowners, such as homes in the 1000 block and 1400 block of Patterson Road.

Guillory said upgrading the entire drainage system, which is called the Buthorn Drain, was last estimated to cost about $5 million.

“We really have tried to work with him to mitigate the water,” Guillory said. “He wanted us to guarantee that he would never have any flooding issues at his home again, and we couldn’t do that.”

Kevin Williams, manager of the Grand Valley Drainage District, said the agency has placed new manhole covers in the area, and workers have cut roots out of the pipes. He said the district paid for the construction of a swale at a neighbor’s home downhill from Richardson’s home, which should keep water from pooling up.

“If that Buthorn Drain overflows, it’s definitely not an easy fix. We’re talking multimillions of dollars,” Williams said.

The district operates on fixed mill levy revenues, and voters have declined to increase those rates, he said.

Richardson said he hopes the above-ground improvements that have been made over the years on his property and the home of a downhill neighbor are enough to mitigate flooding on his property in the future, but only time will tell. He said he’s hesitant to fix up the rental home for fear that it will be damaged again when spring and summer storms hit.

“I love rivers, just not in my backyard,” he said.


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