Many of the buildings on the Colorado State University campus hit hard by the flood of July 28, 1997, can or soon will be able to withstand a similar deluge with only minimal damage.
With these improvements, most buildings would also escape unscathed the effects of a so-called 100-year flood.
Campus officials combined a policy of containment with one of cost-effectiveness, said Ronald Baker, director of facilities management at Colorado State. Berms, low walls, reconfigured stairwells, raised vents, waterproofed utility vaults and similar fixes wouldn’t be noticed by an unfamiliar eye, but will protect high-priority buildings at risk of flooding.
While the campus could be floodproofed, Baker said, such a move would be neither cost effective nor practical.
"There is no reasonable way to protect completely against such floods," Baker said. "Instead, we took a look at protecting crucial buildings.
"Given current efforts, we are planning to have zero damage for a 100-year flood, and we’ve tried to protect most others against an event like last year’s flood, including the Education Building, Eddy Hall, the Heating Plant, Lory Student Center, Morgan Library and the Hartshorn Health Center.
"Should a flood like the one in 1997 recur, what we’d have is $3-4 million in damage instead of more than $100 million."
For example, Baker said, a low wall was built on the west side of the library where water entered the building last summer. An entrance on the building’s north side and an electrical vault have been restructured to keep water from entering, and staircases were reconfigured to keep water out.
The work "looks pretty good, to be honest," Baker said. "If we had an event like last summer’s at the Morgan Library, we wouldn’t have any damage."
Building repairs are done or nearing completion. At Morgan Library, for example, only a section of basement used until recently for processing donated books still needs renovation.
Similarly, reconstruction work has been completed on the College Avenue Gym, Forestry Building, Heating Plant, Johnson Hall, the Music Building, Spruce Hall, the the Administration Annex and Centers for Disease Control (on the Foothills Campus). Work on Eddy Hall, the Education Building and Hartshorn Health Center will be completed in August; Gibbons Hall will be finished in October; and the finishing touches should be done on Lory Student Center later this fall.
Flood mitigation efforts to the Occupational Therapy building are finished, but routine renovation of mechanical systems still is ongoing. In several cases, Baker said, work crews minimized disruption by carrying out scheduled maintenance while repairing flood damage.
With work done or nearing completion, planners have raised their sights should another flood occur. Along with what Baker terms "local mitigation projects" – the work on individual buildings – storm sewers have been cleaned and steam tunnel vents will be raised. Planning has started on efforts that would impound water on open areas of the campus until it can be safely dispersed. Funding permitting, Baker expects to complete these projects no later than the summer of 2001.
While every building has been repaired, not every one has been scheduled for floodproofing. Protecting some buildings on the east side of the Oval, for example, would simply be too expensive, and such efforts would interfere with the area’s aesthetic charm.
"It always ends up as a cost-benefit kind of decision," Baker said. "The plan that we have, for a reasonable amount of money, will eliminate nearly all of the damages we could expect from another storm like last year’s."