Environmental Issues
Environmental Issues As has been noted in the City's South Boulder Creek Management Plan describing the general area:
South Boulder Creek is a unique area comprised of riparian corridors, agricultural fields, short/mixed grass prairie, and tallgrass prairie. These habitats support at least 240 vertebrate species and a large number of invertebrate species. The South Boulder Creek riparian corridor within the Management Area supports the highest diversity of wildlife associated with this area.
The Hogan/Pancost land is a microcosm of these ecological zones, exhibiting: riparian corridors, agricultural fields, short/mixed grass prairie, and tallgrass prairie. Perhaps there is no other parcel within the South Boulder Creek area that exhibits the ecological diversity of the Hogan/Pancost land in such a small area.

Though at times overgrazed this property is a remnant tall grass prairie, with grasses growing 5+ feet. This land is host to a number of species. Red Tail Hawks have been known to sucessfully nest in the area. Kestrels and other raptors often frequent the site. As the City aerial photography of the area from 2003 shows, this area has been home to a relatively large (60+ burrows) prairie dog colony, one of the few colonies in the area. Coyotes often make use of it as evidenced by the frequent nighttime howls. Recently, a great blue heron has been spotted in the "non-existent" wetlands. Fox are common. As are owl:

Heron and other waterfowl are often seen:

Species of Concern

The management plan goes on to state:
Records reveal the presence of sixty-two species of state or federal concern: fifty-four bird species, six mammal species, and two fish species.
This includes three very sensitive species that rely on this critical habitat: Ute Ladies'-Tresses orchid, Preble's Meadow Jumping mouse and the Bobolink. The importance of this ecosystem led to the area being designated a State of Colorado Natural Area. Development proposals for nearby parcels (e.g., the Lemons parcel) have not been recommended by city staff due to the proximity to these sensitive lands. Development of the Hogan/Pancost would in no way be less negative than development of these other parcels. The Hogan/Pancost land serves as an important buffer between the neighborhoods to the west and South Boulder Creek to the east.

Wetlands

This property is rich in wetlands. As the map below shows there is a regulatory wetland (shown in green) along the northern property boundary. There are important wetland areas on Open Space and private land to the east. Three irrigation ditches define the property boundary and a number of lateral ditches bisect the property. The irrigation ditches, in aggregate, are 1.3 km in length. Considering that wetland areas along these ditches are 10-30 feet wide they form linear wetland areas covering 1.5+ acres of the site. The light blue areas of the image show some of the areas where the flood irrigation typically leaves ephemeral wetland areas.


Wetlands

Below are wetlands maps from the 1960's and from a developer's study done in 1995.


Public Service Map from the 60's


Wetlands Mapping from 1995

BVCP

As the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan (BVCP) states:
In the semi-arid Boulder Valley, places where the ground is saturated or flooded are relatively uncommon. Nevertheless, these areas which are wet through the growing season have importance well out of proportion to their size or abundance.
The BVCP describes wetlands as:
Wetlands are defined as those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater enough to support vegetation typically adapted to wet soil conditions. A wetland has certain characteristics that distinguish it from other natural ecosystems. Wetland soils contain little or no oxygen and are saturated for varying periods of time during the growing season. Certain plants are adapted to living in wet, low-oxygen conditions and thrive in wetland areas. Cattails, rushes, willows, sedges, and cottonwoods are examples of wetland plants typically found in the Northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountains.
In discussion of the South Boulder Creek floodplain, the BVCP goes on to say:
Alteration of the hydrology of floodplains is the single most important impact of development on these areas.

Wetlands Gallery

We can let the images speak for themselves.


Regulatory Wetlands Along North Side


South Ditch


West Ditch


Willows and Cottonwoods


Cattails


Sedges


Ponding Area


Typical Saturated Conditions


Southeast Corner

This site is flood irrigated and it is a common occurrence to see 1+ acres in the center of the site be under water:

Flood Irrigation Areas (Note the Duck)

Fill

Unfortunately, a large amount of fill was brought onto the property in 1994. The ironic thing is that this fill came, in part, from the construction of the East Boulder Community Center. As a neghboring homeowner writes:
Roberts Trucking was under contract with the City of Boulder to legally dispose of the East Boulder Center Property material off-site which included the Pancost property.

Mr. Pancost never obtained a "grading permit" that is required to dump more than 50 cu. yds. on to a site. I met with County officials to issue a "stop" order for dumping which they did. The dumping started in Oct. 1994. I would estimate that over 500 cu yd of material was dumped on the Pancost site before stop orders could be issued.

As can be seen from the following pictures a large amount of fill was brought onto the site. This, of course, has led to the drying up of once more extensive wetland areas. Most likely this fill will have changed the flood behavior of this property, perhaps increasing the risks to neighboring homeowners.

Developer's Reports

The developer's wetlands report to the county in 2003 notes that:
A large wetlands area in the center of the property that was previously mapped in 1992 has dried and does not exhibit wetland characteristics
This same wetlands report states:
Wetlands at the site are limited to a small, low quality, drainage swale located near the western property boundary
...
The irrigation ditch flowing across the eastern (southern?- ed) part of the site is not considered wetlands.
Now, of course, we're not professional ecologists but, as the saying goes, if it quacks like a duck it probably is a duck. Based on our reading of what a wetlands is and the photographic evidence above we believe that this report was a bit off in the estimation of the wetlands on the site. This same report states:
It is recommended that the existing low-quality wetlands be filled prior to annexation into the City of Boulder following the Boulder County land use regulations so the entire site will be available for development.
This speaks for itself.

 

 

 

The views expressed on this web site are solely those of the author. If you have any concerns or comments or believe anything on this web site is inaccurate or in error please contact the author at jeff.mcwhirter -at- gmail.com