Boulder County warns homeowners: Respond to flood debris removal plan or pay up

BOULDER, Colo. - Parts of Colorado are still recovering from the September floods, and with spring runoff season approaching, Boulder County is giving homeowners a deadline to respond to the debris removal plan.

County commissioner Cindy Domenico told 7NEWS they sent 267 letters to property owners alongside certain stream channels saying debris there has been identified as potentially dangerous. The county sent a form asking for 'right of entry' onto the property, so crews can clean the debris.

Homeowners have been told they have 10 days to respond, from the date the letter was postmarked.

They must let the county know whether they will take care of removing the debris or sign the form allowing the county to do it. If the homeowner signs the form, the county will clear debris with no cost to the owner. A homeowner can also refuse access, but then they must be responsible for cleaning the debris on property.

"If they chose not to remove things voluntarily or not to sign the access form for us to remove the debris, then it would cost the homeowner as well," Domenico said.

Domenico said if a homeowner does not cooperate, the county could ask the court for access to the property to remove the debris; however, the homeowner would still have to pay the cleanup fee.

But some who live in these areas feel the county is overstepping.

John Pellouchoud told 7NEWS Reporter Lindsey Sablan he never gave permission to the county to clean his property.

"I’m told they [contractors] were told they were supposed to clear the debris out of the river with five foot on either side. But they took their track hoes and heavy equipment and between the road and the river there were hundreds of trees and bushes and shrubs that got in their way, so they got those out too," Pellouchoud said. "My issue is with the collateral damage they leave in their wake. That’s good, most of the debris is gone out of the river but my land is now decimated."

7NEWS asked the county about Pellouchoud's case. A spokesperson for the county commissioners said the area crews are now working is not part of Pellouchoud's property.

But another another woman in the area who asked to remain anonymous voiced other concerns about the cleanup, specific to the form homeowners are asked to sign. She said it give the county too much power to come on her land whenever they want to clean whatever they deem necessary. That homeowner said she opted to pay nearly $1,200 to clean her property herself.

We asked Domenico about the form. She said it was a form approved by FEMA that homeowners need to sign in order for FEMA to help pay 75 percent of the cost of debris removal.

"What we’re thinking we’d like to do is look at a three year timeframe for those forms to be in place. At the end of that point, the commissioners would hold a public hearing and have a public process around any other needs around flood recovery that would need to happen around properties across the county," Domenico said. "We see it as a site specific discussion every time."

County officials hope to have stream beds cleared by May 1. The county estimated the total cost to remoe the 'high hazard' areas would be $14 million. FEMA would cover 75 percent, the state 12 percent and the county the rest.

- Residents can report debris, ask questions about the ROE form or any other debris-related questions by emailing debrisresponseteam@bouldercounty.org.

- Other questions about flood recovery in general/rebuilding/high hazard removal etc. can be asked in person at the Flood Rebuilding & Permit Information Center, which is at 1301 Spruce St. Rembrandt Yard. People can call 303-441-1705 or email floodrecovery@bouldercounty.org.

- BoulderCountyFlood.org is the best resource for any and all county-related flood information.

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