Bitter Creek Reconstruction

Bitter Creek Reconstruction

Bitter Creek LogoEarly Days
In 1852, coal was first mined in the area of Rock Springs, and the establishment of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1868 greatly elevated that demand for coal. In 1916, the Dead Horse Canyon Creek drainage ditch was constructed in partnership with the Union Pacific Railroad to control storm water into Bitter Creek, but in 1924 a devastating flood still affected the railroad, coal mines, and residents living along the creek banks. The 1924 flood pointed out to the Union Pacific that its railroad and coal mines were in danger of being severely damaged if another flood ever happened again. People living along the banks of Bitter Creek lost homes and valuables, and since the creek served as the City's sewer system, the flood meant human health issues needed addressed. In 1925, the first major diversion of1924 Flood the Bitter Creek channel took flood waters away from the railroad tracks and coal mines, but the current Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) floodplain map still shows the former, filled-in creek channel as well as the "new" channel, thereby including much of the City's downtown and many residential properties in a federally designated Special Flood Hazard Area. This designation puts severe restrictions on development opportunities, requires property owners to pay additional, often costly flood insurance premiums, and negatively affects community image.

An Ambitious Plan
With such a complicated and challenging history with the Bitter Creek, the City of Rock Springs approved an ambitious project to drastically change the way the creek affects the City and its residents. The Bitter Creek Reconstruction Plan and Design, completed in 2007, included a study area of approximately 3.5 miles of the Bitter Creek corridor from the South Side Belt Route bridge on the east side of Rock Springs to the confluence of Sweetwater Creek just west of Plaza Mall. Since flood events on Dead Horse Canyon Creek have also impacted portions of the study area over the years, it was determined that improvements to Bitter Creek alone would be insufficient to eliminate 100-year flooding in the study area and the plan outlined the initial projects to be located along Dead Horse Canyon Creek. Benefits of the Bitter Creek Reconstruction Project, once fully completed, will include the following:
  • Controlling flooding and eliminating the potential for further damage to vulnerable residential and commercial retail areas;
  • Removing barriers to economic development and property improvements;
  • Eliminating costly flood insurance premiums for residents;
  • Creating an environmentally and aesthetically pleasing stream system throughout the City;
  • Improving connectivity with and enhancing the City's existing trails and parks systems; and
  • Developing new pedestrian trails for recreational use.
Areas Removed - Bitter Creek
Permitting

In 2008, the City of Rock Springs was awarded an Abandoned Mine Land (AML) grant of $4.5 million for the project, and the AML issued a Notice to Proceed with Design. After three years of regulatory review and design, a Corps of Engineers Permit was approved, the AML issued a Notice to Proceed with Construction, FEMA approved a Conditional Letter of Map Revision (CLOMR) to their floodplain map, and the Final Amended Environmental Assessment was approved by United States Department of Interior, Office of Surface Mining.

DHCC Box CulvertConstruction
In 2011, construction was completed on two detention basins located along tributaries south of the City. By 2012, construction and levee improvements were completed along the Dead Horse Canyon Creek area, from the area near Connecticut Avenue to Pearl Park and the confluence with Bitter Creek. Based upon these completed improvements, FEMA notified the City of an approved Letter of Map Revision (LOMR) for the Dead Horse Canyon Creek area floodplain map so that the 100-year floodplain is essentially limited to the creek channel itself, and the majority of the City's downtown and numerous residential properties are no longer in the floodplain!
The map below shows just how much the floodplain has been reduced downtown and in the Dead Horse Canyon Creek area. Approximately 142 commercial and residential properties have now been removed from the floodplain. The lighter blue shaded areas are no longer in the floodplain, including B, C, and D Streets, Broadway, South Main, North Front, and much of 5th Street.

Areas Removed - DHCC
Future Work Still Needed

The City has now determined to divide the remaining work along Bitter Creek into four segments. Segment 1 stretches from near the City's Dog Park to the South Side Belt Route bridge. This segment is now at 100% design completed and construction ready. Approximate cost to complete work on this segment is $3.8 million. Recreational benefits would include a new pedestrian trail connecting from Dewar Drive to the Dog Park, as well as a trailhead and parking area. The City has already acquired the trailhead area property.


Segment 1
Segment 2 stretches from the South Side Belt Route bridge to the Dewar Drive bridge. This segment is now at 25% design. Approximate cost to complete work on this segment is $10.6 million, removing approximately 62 properties from the floodplain. Recreational benefits would include a new pedestrian trail connecting Dewar Drive to the future Rahonce Park and the Dewar Drive greenbelt; another possible pedestrian connection could be made to Steven's Park.

Segment 3 stretches from the Dewar Drive bridge to N Street. This segment is now at 25% design. Approximate cost to complete work on this segment is $11.8 million, removing approximately 14 properties from the floodplain. Recreational benefits would include an improved pedestrian trail and landscaping along the North Side Belt Route, and a replacement pedestrian bridge connecting the North Side Belt Route to Soulsby Avenue.

Segment 4 stretches from N Street to the South Side Belt Route on the east side of town. This segment is now at 25% design. Approximate cost to complete work on this segment is $8.0 million, removing approximately 582 properties from the floodplain. Recreational benefits would include trail connections to O'Farrell Park and possible connection and expansion of Pearl Park.

At this time everything is in place to keep this project moving forward except for additional funding, which the City is pursuing. For questions regarding the Bitter Creek project, please contact Jennifer Shields, City Planner, at (307) 352-1540 or Jennifer_Shields@rswy.net.

Summary Figures

Total Lineal Feet: 16,189.
Total Cost: 34.2 million PLUS any costs associated with necessary property acquisition.
Total Properties to be Removed from the Floodplain: 800
.
Total Benefits: See above - priceless!

  • News &
    Notices
  • Related
    Pages
Subscribe to this feed

Contact Us

212 D St
Rock Springs, WY 82901
Get Directions

In This Department