Here’s a recap of this week’s Arkansas Basin Roundtable meeting, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:
A plan to stabilize the banks of Fountain Creek on an El Paso County ranch went around a few more bends than usual at the Arkansas Basin Roundtable Wednesday. The roundtable routinely passes grant requests with few ripples, but the Fountain Creek proposal hit more than the usual number of snags. In the end, the plan was kicked back to its sponsors with instructions to obtain more matching funds.
“What we’re after is the longterm stability of Fountain Creek,” said Graham Thompson, an engineering consultant for the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway district. “We’re trying to mimic the river’s natural flow.”
The district sought more than $150,000 in state grants to restore natural curves and stabilize banks on the Frost Ranch. The plan incorporated $30,000 in inkind contributions from Colorado Springs Utilities, based on lessons learned at the nearby Clear Springs Ranch. Thompson said the Frost Ranch was chosen after 10 properties were looked at, partly because the landowners were willing to work with the district. The demonstration project could be useful in convincing other landowners to make improvements that are designed to reduce erosion and sedimentation.
The Fountain Creek district board last month committed to pursuing more grants until it can put permanent financial sources in place. The district has been looking at asking voters for a property tax, but otherwise will continue to patch together budgets until 2016, when it begins receiving $50 million that was promised by Colorado Springs Utilities after the Southern Delivery System goes online.
The plan was hit by a rain of criticism, however.
On a technical level, some roundtable members questioned whether the improvements would hold up to the next flood. “You’re messing with Mother Nature and things tend to get moved around in high flows,” said David Taussig. On a financial level, some asked why Colorado Springs and the landowners are not putting cash money into the improvements.
Others thought it more important to try to make improvements on Fountain Creek. Beulah rancher Reeves Brown said paying some of the bill for landowners has the same value as a conservation easement.
“This plan has good things that will benefit the roundtable,” said Betty Konarski, who represents El Paso County. “If you can show a project that works, you’ll have more people working with the district.”