ERIE, CO – A small mitigation project to repair a culvert at Erie Municipal Airport proved to be cost effective in the wake of the September 2013 flood.
For years, the culvert at the airport’s Coal Creek crossing needed significant repairs just to keep it operational during small storms.
“The city was constantly using a Band-Aid approach to keeping the dilapidated system functioning,” said Wendi Palmer, Erie city engineer. “Crews went out weekly to clean the culvert, and the system was repaired numerous times. I was afraid that in case of a large event, the bridge would be completely washed away, causing a temporary shutdown of the airport. It was scary and expensive.”
As it would turn out, fixing the culvert prevented a more expensive construction job later. The cost of maintenance had been averaging $6,990 per year, with costs as high as $11,000 in one year alone. Initiated on December 12, 2008, and completed on June 6, 2011, the total project cost $417,083.
In 2008, the city began the process of replacing the culvert through a grant funded by the FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program (PDM). PDM pays up to 75 percent of approved projects that assist state and local communities implementing long-term mitigation measures, designed to prevent or reduce damage from storms and other natural hazards.
The culvert system connects the 4,700-foot-long runway to a maintenance facility, several businesses and private hangars west of Coal Creek. The new culvert system consisted of two parallel precast reinforced concrete box culverts, each measuring approximately 10 feet high and 20 feet wide. The ends of both culvert sides were anchored and poured in concrete wing walls approximately 30 feet long and tapered to meet the creek bank.
During the September flooding, waters reached a height above the culvert crown and deposited a small amount of silt on the roadway, but no real damage was done.
“The structure worked per its design,” said Russell Pennington, Deputy Director of Public Works for the town of Erie. “It’s a great asset to the town and the airport.”