From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chacón):
Melcher gave Mayor Steve Bach and the City Council five options, including making stormwater a responsibility of Colorado Springs Utilities and asking voters to pass a tax.
Melcher emphasized that Utilities should play a big role in the solution because he said the future of the $2.3 billion Southern Delivery System water pipeline is at stake. “Utilities right now has a shared interest with the city for a number of reasons, but particularly because their SDS project is contingent on a permit that requires the city, which includes Utilities, the entire city, to have a functioning stormwater system,” Melcher said during the monthly Mayor’s Counsel Meeting between Bach and council members. The 62-mile pipeline from the Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs is under construction.
Colorado Springs is falling woefully behind on its stormwater needs.
The city should be spending $13 million to $15 million annually on stormwater, and the unfunded capital needs for stormwater are estimated at $500 million. The city is spending only about $1.2 million to pay for the federally mandated stormwater component of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program.
At least two council members — Tim Leigh and Angela Dougan — said the city should try to find a way to pay for stormwater through Utilities’ budget of more than $1 billion.
More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
Colorado Springs Council, in a meeting with Mayor Steve Bach this week, was told by City Attorney Tim Melcher that it should be spending $13 million-$15 million a year for stormwater projects, rather than the bare minimum it now spends, about $1.2 million a year, to satisfy federal requirements…
There is a $500 million backlog of stormwater projects dating back to the 1980s. Options to fund improvements include raising water rates, already expected to double to pay for the $2.3 billion cost of SDS; shifting Utilities’ payments to the city; finding more money somewhere in general fund; or asking citizens to vote on creating a stormwater enterprise. Colorado Springs had a stormwater enterprise from 2005-09, but eliminated it after a campaign led by tax activist Doug Bruce against a “rain tax.”[...]
The option to vote on the enterprise could conflict with the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District’s plans to ask voters in El Paso and Pueblo counties to approve a mill levy. The district, formed in 2009, will run out of money at the end of this year, and no other source of funding is in sight until SDS is completed in 2016. At that time, Colorado Springs Utilities will begin making five annual payments totalling $50 million.
The [Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District] will hear a report at its April 27 meeting from Summit Economics on a regional stormwater solution. The study was commissioned by El Paso County communities to come up with a unified approach to stormwater management.
More coverage from J. Adrian Stanley writing for the Colorado Springs Independent Indy Blog. From the post:
Really, this was inevitable. Drainage problems aren’t going away. In fact, neglecting them too long will get the city in trouble with the feds, piss off [Colorado Springs Utilities], and probably lead to a few streets caving in.
According to City Attorney Chris Melcher, who spoke on the issue at today’s Mayor’s Counsel meeting, the city has a few options. City Council could simply write a law making Stormwater, or at least parts of Stormwater, the responsibility of Utilities. Alternately, Council could ask for a tax increase, or simply ignore the problem.
One thing’s for sure, the city general fund can’t pay for what needs to be done — about $15 million a year in work.
Both Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin and Councilor Brandy Williams responded by saying the city should cooperate with the Fountain Creek Watershed board, which is working on a regional solution to Stormwater. When that process wraps up, voters will likely be asked to approve a tax to cover project costs.