More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.
2014 Colorado November Election: Colorado Springs City Council approves IGA connected with stormwater enterprise ballot issueAugust 28, 2014
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Colorado Springs City Council Tuesday approved an intergovernmental agreement connected with a ballot issue to form the Pikes Peak Regional Drainage Authority. The vote was 7-2.
The issue is expected to be placed on the ballot by El Paso County commissioners at their meeting next week. It would establish the authority to include the county, Colorado Springs, Fountain, Green Mountain Falls and Manitou Springs. The authority would raise about $39 million annually through fees to address a $700 million backlog in stormwater projects.
Stormwater control on Fountain Creek was one of the premises Colorado Springs Utilities used to obtain permits from Pueblo County and the federal government in order to build the Southern Delivery System.
Colorado Mayor Steve Bach immediately opposed the measure. He said the average bill of $92.40 per year would be 77 percent higher than the fee for the former stormwater enterprise and roughly the same amount homeowners now pay (in property taxes) for all city services combined.
“I believe this IGA is not fair to the citizens of Colorado Springs,” Bach said in a statement.
More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.
EPA: Our scientific assessment for Waters of U.S. is based on over 1,000 pieces of peer-reviewed literatureAugust 27, 2014
From the Colorado Springs Independent (J. Adrian Stanley):
These are the facts accepted by all parties: Last summer and this summer, Green Mountain Falls has seen destructive floods following unusually heavy rains. The town was not affected by the Waldo Canyon Fire. The floods are not the result of runoff from a burn scar. And Woodland Park, located up the pass, has added major developments in recent years, including some alongside Fountain Creek.
Public officials interviewed for this story said they weren’t ready to start playing the blame game. But some people in Green Mountain Falls, especially those who live or own businesses along the creek, are getting edgy. A few have seen bridges washed out multiple times. Mayor Lorrie Worthey says even her home, which is located on a hill, recently had a flooded mudroom.
“There is more water coming down from Woodland; Woodland has grown a lot,” Worthey says carefully. “With that, we are going to get more water.”
Bill Alspach, Woodland Park’s public works director and city engineer, also is cautious when speaking of the Green Mountain Falls flooding. “Woodland Park has strived to be a good steward of the headwaters,” he says.
Woodland Park development affects two watersheds, Fountain Creek and the South Platte. Since the 1990s, the Fountain Creek side has seen the building of Walmart and Safeway stores, each with sprawling parking lots. An apartment complex is also currently under construction.
Alspach says Green Mountain Falls shouldn’t be affected by such development because Woodland Park has had strict stormwater development requirements since 1994. Driving behind the Walmart, he points out two large, grassy retention ponds that slowly release runoff during storms. He’s checked those ponds during downpours, he says, and they’ve been doing their job.
The Safeway doesn’t have such ponds, but Alspach says that’s on purpose, because allowing the water to run off there was found to reduce peak flows in the creek. The apartment complex also has retention ponds, and sits next to a $2.1 million stormwater project that was recently completed by the city and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Water flows in an underground box culvert, and is slowed by barricades before it hits a large channel.
He also points out private and public retention ponds that dot the town, especially in newer developments.
Woodland Park just forked over $100,000 for stormwater repairs needed after a damaging July storm, and is still paying off bonds from major stream work in 1998 and 1999. Alspach says he’s working his way west-to-east along Fountain Creek, doing upgrades. By the end of next year, he hopes to be close to finishing all the improvements in the city area, and to have a study in hand of what needs to be done on private and Teller County land that stretches between the eastern edge of the city and the Walmart.
All this work has been done, Alspach notes, with money from grants, Woodland Park’s limited general fund budget, a special streets fund and stormwater fees. It’s been done despite the fact that the town is too small to be bound by state permits for water quality.
“We have really endeavored to do the right thing for a long time,” he says.
More stormwater coverage here.
From KUNC (Stephanie Paige Ogburn):
As Colorado plans for a future with more people and less water, some in the world of water are turning to the problem of lawns.
In the 2014 legislative session, state senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) introduced a bill [.pdf] that would limit lawns in new developments if they took water from farms. Although the bill was changed dramatically before it passed, that proposal opened up a statewide conservation about how water from agriculture and the Western Slope is used – particularly when it is growing Front Range grass.
Roberts’ proposed bill set at 15 percent the amount lawn area in new developments, excluding parks and open space, said Steve Harris, the Durango water engineer who pitched her the idea.
“So essentially 15 percent kind of worked out to being that you could have grass in the backyard or front yard, one or the other, but not both,” said Harris.
The bill did not pass in its original form, and the issues it addressed were referred to a committee. Now, the conversation about using ag water to grow lawns has morphed into one about the ratio of indoor to outdoor water use, said Harris.
Indoor water is generally recycled, as water goes back into the system, whereas much of the water used for landscapes does not make it back into the water treatment system.
Statewide, that indoor/outdoor ratio is about half-and-half – numbers from Denver Water, which serves residential customers in the city and in many surrounding suburbs, match the state average. The city of Greeley uses a slightly higher percentage of its water for outdoor use, with 45 percent going to indoor uses and 55 percent outdoors.
Harris’s part of the state, though, is pushing for change. In its basin plan released July 31 as part of the state’s water planning process, the Southwest Region called for water providers to aim for a 60-40 ratio by the year 2030. For those taking new water from agriculture or the Western Slope, the standard would be even higher, with a ratio of 70 percent indoor to 30 percent outdoor use…
The idea of setting limits on that grass, though, is receiving pushback from Front Range water utilities and developers. Many utilities point to their existing leadership in conservation, and say a statewide limit takes control away from localities.
But many in rural Colorado are wary of drying up ag land for development. The Colorado Farm Bureau supports limits on farm water being used for turf.
“The rural areas are saying, wait a minute, we are not keen on taking out productive commercial agriculture that is producing something so that you can grow grass in your front yard,” said Harris.
Beckwith and Harris both see Colorado as a place where a discussion on indoor versus outdoor use is just beginning. At some point, said Harris, there will be limits on water use for lawns in Colorado. It’s just a matter of when.
Right now, there is little consensus between Colorado’s different basins on how water use for new lawns should be limited, or even if it should be. But, said Harris, based on the bill from last year’s session, at least there is now a conversation about it.
“If we wanted to create talk, we have created talk,” he said.
More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.
— jfleck (@jfleck) August 24, 2014