Our History

Major Milestones of Colorado’s Front Range watershed history

Take a look back at the history of Mile High Flood District, from its inception in 1969 as a response to the 1965 Platte River Flood, until present day.

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1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 2020s
1960s
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1970s
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1980s
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1990s
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2000s
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2010s
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2020s
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The South Platte River flood of 1965 was Denver’s worst flood of record. It resulted in property losses of about $300 million in Denver alone and over $500 million in the South Platte Basin. Learn More.

1965

National Flood Insurance Act passes. This legislation led to the creation of the National Flood Insurance Program, providing availability to flood insurance and incentivizing best practices in floodplain management.

1968

Senator Shoemaker introduces legislation in the Senate to form the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District, it passes 26 to 7. It also passed the house, 49 to 14. The District began operation with two staff and funding of 1/10 mill.

1969

The District adopts regions first floodplain regulations, predating the National Flood Insurance Act.

1970

The District assumes responsibility for the Urban Storm Drainage Criteria Manual from DRCOG.

1971

The District holds the first Syposium, a two-day event held at the Regency Rodeway Inn Denver with the theme “Urban Drainage in a Regional Context”.

1971

The District’s first masterplans are published for Weir and Sanderson Gulch. City and County of Denver and the City of Lakewood were partners in these efforts.

1972

L. Scott Tucker was selected as Executive Director.

1972

State legislature approved a District Mill levy increase from 1/10 to 5/10 mill (1/10 for Operations and Planning, 4/10 for Construction).

1973

The Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 made the purchase of flood insurance mandatory for the protection of property located in Special Flood Hazard Areas.

1973

On May 6, record flooding occured along the South Platte River through Adams County making the 1965 flood the second largest event for that reach of river.

1973

The District starts a Floodplain Management Program in response to increased instances of damaging floods in the region.

1974

Big Thompson Canyon Flash Flood occurs on July 31 during Colorado’s Centennial celebration causing massive damage totaling over $35 million and claiming over 140 lives.

1976

The District develops a first ever “Flood Disaster Plan” to define roles and responsibilities and tasks during and after a crisis.

1978

The District starts the Flood Warning Program providing early warnings of potential and imminent treats to local governments.

1979

The District embarked upon the task of developing a maintenance program after a temporary 4/10 mill levy that would encompass only the “major” portions of some streams passes in the legislature.

1979

The District receives a “Friends of the River” award from the Greenway foundation for its involvement in the redevelopment of the area.

1980

The Maintenance Eligibility Program (MEP) officially begins providing incentives for local governments to require District approval for development projects proposed near streams.

1981

The District requested and received a funding increase of 0.1 mill for a South Platte River program.

1987

TABOR is adopted by the voters which freezes District revenues at inflation plus growth and effectively ends future additions to service area by the legislation.

1991

The District releases Volume 3 of the criteria manual.

1992

High snowmelt runoff flooding caused damages in excess of $20 million and claimed 15 lives, most damage occurred outside the district.

1995

The first District website goes live at MHFD.org.

1996

A deadly flash flood occurred in Fort Collins on July 28 prompting a federal disaster declaration. Significant flooding was noted as the “worst of the past decade.”

1997

The District became the first FEMA Cooperating Technical Partner. This program creates partnerships between FEMA and state, regional, and local partners to keep flood hazard maps current and increase public awareness of risk.

1999

It’s a busy time at the District as a 40-year low in mortgage rates is causing a rapid development expansion along the front range with the growth expected to continue for several years to come.

2003

The District begins using GIS for the routine maintenance program, moving away from the standard library of aerial images that were previously used.

2003

Dave Lloyd becomes Executive Director.

2004

Staff from two different groups merged to form the Design, Construction, and Maintenance Program.

2006

On May 14, a storm claimed the life of 2-year-old Jose Matthew Jauregui Jr., swept away from his mother by a fast rising Lakewood Gulch. Five years later the District and Denver finished removing the walled section of this reach. Learn More

2007

Paul Hindman becomes Executive Director.

2008

The District undertook the massive task of migrating the majority of the printed materials (OSPs, Masterplans, As-builts) to the website.

2009

September floods cause widespread damage to many areas of the District due to rainfall that exceeded the 500-year event in places.

2013

After pitching the idea of a State-wide stormwater education program to CSU, the District secured a grant to help start the Colorado Stormwater Center. Learn More

2013

The District led a statewide charge in 2015 to successfully pass legislation that changed Colorado water law, declaring that stormwater detention facilities overseen by government entities do not materially injure water rights.

2015

Ken Mackenzie becomes Executive Director.

2016

The District holds the first Stream Management Academy bringing a diverse group of professionals together to strengthen collaboration on watershed and stream projects. Watch Now

2017

The Master Planning and Floodplain Programs are consolidated to form “Watershed Services”

2017

The District creates a Development Services Enterprise, allowing land developers to voluntarily partner with the District to fund and implement stream improvements necessitated by their land development in lieu of going through the District’s traditional maintenance eligibility acceptance program.

2017

Residents of the District pass 7G, a bill removing the District from the restrictions of TABOR. This will nearly double the annual budget over the next two years.

2018

The District restructures the organization by watersheds. This “Watershed Approach” increases the breadth of work for engineering staff and removes the silos of the previous programmatic structure.

2018

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The District rebrands as “Mile High Flood District” and develops a new logo just in time for a 50th year celebration!

2019

MHFD creates a dedicated Property Acquisition Fund Reserve. This fund helps local governments purchase at-risk properties in the floodplain and return the land to the stream corridor.

2019

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread throughout the world in mid-March, MHFD closed the office and the staff of over 50 worked from home for the remainer of 2020 and into 2021.

2020

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