Mayor Hancock launches major infrastructure effort along S. Platte

Published on December 02, 2021

Mayor Michael B. Hancock joins The Greenway Foundation and nearly two dozen other stakeholders in committing to reclaim the South Platte River through major infrastructure investments. Today the Mayor announced the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to unite multiple stakeholders, the first step in making this historic investment in one of the most vital waterways in our state.

“With the South Platte River Project, we intend to make the largest ever investment – over $550 million – in the restoration and conservation of the South Platte River ecosystem,” Mayor Hancock said. “This is an infrastructure investment that will drive economic opportunity through equity and the creation of 7300 good-paying local jobs, support our neighborhoods through flood mitigation and creating new green space, and take climate action and repair environmental justice.”

“The South Platte River is a critical watershed at the heart of the Denver metropolitan area. This historic investment will restore and protect the South Platte while also creating good-paying jobs and promoting environmental equity across communities bordering this vital waterway,” said Governor Jared Polis. “I’m thrilled to see this collaborative kick off and look forward to seeing the South Platte transform into a healthier, cleaner and more sustainable watershed for all of Denver.”

The project will invest more than $550 million in federal, state, regional and local public and private funding to restore degraded ecosystem conditions along 6.5 miles of the South Platte River, improve river recreation and implement flood risk management protection in certain areas including Weir Gulch and Harvard Gulch. The project will drive economic opportunity through equity and the creation of 7300 good-paying local jobs over the lifetime of the project; support our neighborhoods not just through reducing flood risk in vulnerable communities, but also the creation of new green spaces and recreation amenities; and take climate action and repair environmental justice through the conservation of this treasured outdoor space, reduce the temperatures of the water and mitigate heat islands in some of most underserved neighborhoods.

The Platte River is one of four river basins originating in Colorado and is a vital water supply for people, pets, wildlife, and their habitats in Denver and beyond. For decades, community leaders have made numerous efforts to restore the South Platte, balancing the city’s growth and development goals with preservation. After years of environmental studies conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the South Platte River & Tributaries, Adams & Denver Counties, Colorado project has been authorized by the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (WRDA 2020).

Through the South Platte River Project, there will be an increase in vegetated wetland habitat from .7% of the city’s land mass to 6.5%, including 160 acres of new riparian corridor and wetland habitat benefitting birds and 100 acres of new wetland habitat improving fish passage that will connect with 190 acres of existing habitat for a total of 450 acres of habitat in a 6.5-mile reach of the South Platte River from 6th Avenue downstream to 58th Avenue.

Improved habitat for birds along the South Platte River will improve the Central Flyway as one of eight international flyways for migratory birds and help meet goals of National Significance. Ecosystem restoration improvement also will be achieved in Weir Gulch. The project will address flood risk issues impacting a 3.5-mile section of Weir Gulch where channel improvements will greatly reduce the width of the floodplain and reduce or eliminate flood insurance requirements for 360 properties. 

100 structures will benefit from additional flood risk management measures on the South Platte River.  Voluntary, non-structural flood protection alternatives will be available for 176 structures in the 3-mile reach of Harvard Gulch. A second project – Southern Platte Valley Sec. 1135 Continuing Authorities Program (CAP) – will improve 2.4 miles of the South Platte River located between Yale Avenue downstream to Mississippi Avenue and will involve ecosystem restoration resulting in an additional 11 acres of riparian habitat, 22 acres of aquatic habitat, and 1.5 acres of Palustrine Emergent scrub/shrub wetlands.

Signees supporting the Memorandum of Understanding include:

  • Mayor Michael B. Hancock
  • Barr Lake-Milton Reservoir Watershed Association: Dan DeLaughter, President
  • Colorado Water Conservation Board: Becky Mitchell, Director
  • Colorado State University, Spur Campus: Assistant Vice Chancellor Jocelyn Hittle
  • Continuum Partners: Mark Falcone, CEO/Founder
  • Columbia Group LLLP: Jerry Glick, Managing Partner
  • Capitol Representatives: Marge Price, Principal and David Howlett, Principal
  • Denver Audubon: Karl Brummert, Executive Director
  • Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce: J.J. Ament, President and CEO
  • Denver Trout Unlimited: John Davenport, Past President
  • Denver Water: James S. Lochhead, CEO/Manager
  • East West Partners: Amy Cara, Managing Partner
  • Gates Family Foundation: Tom Gougeon, President
  • The Greenway Foundation: Jeff Shoemaker, Executive Director
  • McWhinney: Ray Pittman, President & Chief Executive Officer
  • Mile High Flood District: Ken MacKenzie, Executive Director
  • The Nature Conservancy: Carlos Fernandez, Colorado State Director
  • Revesco Properties (River Mile developer): Rhys Duggan, President, CEO & Managing Partner
  • South Platte River Urban Waters Partnership: Samuel Wallace, Coordinator
  • Trammell Crow: Bill Mosher, Senior Managing Director
  • The Trust for Public Land: Jim Petterson, Colorado and Southwest Region Director
  • ULI Colorado: Marianne Eppig, Director
  • University of Denver: Chancellor Jeremy Haefner
  • Urban Neighborhoods: Dana Crawford, CEO/Founder
  • Urban Ventures: Susan Powers, President
  • USDA Forest Service: Sherry Fountain, Urban & Community Forestry/Forest Stewardship Program Manager
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