Transmountain diversions: “I think the Twin Lakes company needs to be more open-minded” — Jay Winner #COWaterPlan

April 11, 2014
Twin Lakes collection system

Twin Lakes collection system

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Twin Lakes Reservoir & Canal Co. took umbrage at the way working drafts of an upcoming state water plan viewed its future. A report prepared by the Interbasin Compact Committee uses an example of a way to create new supply, suggesting that Twin Lakes could cut back its diversions from the other side of the Continental Divide in drought years to aid the Western Slope. Trouble is, Twin Lakes has no plans to do that, said Kevin Lusk, who is president of the Twins Lakes company as a representative of Colorado Springs Utilities, the majority shareholder in Twin Lakes.

“In our discussions, we’re trying to keep what we’ve got, and we have no intentions of increasing the use,” Lusk told the Arkansas Basin Roundtable Wednesday.

Lusk asked for a retraction of the statement by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable and from the basin roundtable chairs. The document was discussed in a March 17 conference call among roundtable chairs and alluded to in an Aspen Daily News story. Several roundtable members questioned how the statement landed in the document, since it was not discussed at a meeting.

“It was cited as an example in the process as we move forward,” said Betty Konarski, chairwoman of the roundtable.

Lusk said the distribution of the information is detrimental to Twin Lakes. While there have been past discussions along the same lines, the company has never committed to changing its operations to accommodate the Western Slope.

“Twin Lakes is not considering a reduction of diversions. We haven’t agreed to do it or not to do it,” added Alan Ward, water resources manager for the Pueblo Board of Water Works, the second largest Twin Lakes shareholder. “We wouldn’t have a reason to give any of it up unless there was some benefit to us. It’s gravity-flow and inexpensive water for us.”

But a minority Twin Lakes shareholder, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, said the company should be more open to actions that could have a statewide benefit. comments,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district. “I think the Twin Lakes company needs to be more open-minded. It’s looking at what’s good for Colorado Springs Utilities, not the whole state.”

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Colorado Springs Utilities has acquired most of the land access needed for the Southern Delivery System

April 2, 2014
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic/Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic/Reclamation

From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

Outside of a handful of parcels tied up in eminent-domain court actions, the city has amassed the vast majority of land needed to complete the 66-inch-diameter line across Pueblo and El Paso counties. And as for those in court, Utilities has been granted possession; at issue is determination of their value.

Which leaves only one other property acquisition needed for the pipeline itself, and a couple dozen others for related projects. Overall, the land-acquisition project is on schedule, if significantly over budget.

“We are pleased to be nearly complete with acquiring the land needed for SDS,” says Utilities project manager John Fredell in a statement. “We have worked hard to be fair with property owners and appreciate their cooperation to advance this critical project for our community and partners.”[...]

The city’s initial foray into acquiring property for the project, in 2003 and 2004, caused an uproar, and a tightening of city real estate acquisition procedures. Utilities, in some cases without Utilities Board approval, had made offers for homes near Jimmy Camp Creek, northeast of the city, for up to three times the homes’ assessed values, plus six-figure moving costs — in one case, $340,000. The city paid $6.1 million for 14 properties and then allowed the former owners to rent for $300 a month indefinitely.

Within a few years, the city abandoned the Jimmy Camp area as a reservoir site due to archaeological values and other factors, and instead chose Upper Williams Creek near Bradley Road.

In 2009 and 2010, Utilities tangled with Pueblo West residents and left some hard feelings in its wake. The buried pipeline, which traverses the back portions of residential lots, can’t be built upon, which residents say renders their yards unusable.

Resident Dwain Maxwell, who’s forced Utilities into condemnation court, says he was paid $1,850 for land his appraisal said was worth $16,500. Meanwhile, he estimates Utilities has spent four times that amount on attorneys. “I feel like they’ve not been honest with us,” he says today.

Gary Walker of Pueblo County is also still in condemnation court with the city, and declined to be interviewed for this story. But he notes in an email that he’s been recognized repeatedly for his stewardship of the land at his ranch, and was the first to sign up for the reintroduction of the black-footed ferret under federal rules. “How do you put a price on the destruction of something so important as our environment?” he asks.

In 2012, Utilities went up against the Norris ranching family for a chunk of land for Upper Williams Creek Reservoir. After the Norrises moved to create their own reservoir, a deal was reached in which the city paid the family $7.5 million for 791 acres.

But the biggest single acquisition was land next to the Norris property owned by the State Land Board. The city paid more than $11.8 million for 1,128 acres, the highest per-acre price paid for pipeline property…

Utilities needs to acquire about 15 additional properties for the reservoir site, but the reservoir won’t be built until SDS’ second phase, from 2020 to 2025, as demand requires. The city also needs 11 more properties for a section of pipe for treated water, Rummel says.

So far, the city has spent $34.6 million on land for SDS. That’s about 38 percent more than the $25 million estimate in 2009 for 274 parcels in Phase 1 and reservoir land. If costs for surveys, appraisals, real estate fees and closings are added, the cost is $45 million, or 22 percent more than the 2009 “all-in” estimate of $37 million.

Water rates, meantime, haven’t increased as much as earlier predicted. Ratepayers saw 12 percent hikes in 2011 and 2012, and 10 percent increases in 2013 and 2014. A 5 percent hike is expected in 2015. Previously, 12 percent annual jumps were forecast from 2011 through 2017.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Arkansas Valley Conduit backers hope to make deal for excess capacity in the Pueblo Dam south outlet works soon

March 27, 2014
Pueblo Dam

Pueblo Dam

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A plan is hatching to get pipe in the ground ahead of schedule for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. It would reduce the initial costs of the project and allow some negotiations to proceed even with a reduced amount of federal funding, said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, project sponsor.

“We were under the impression that all the money had to be in place up front before negotiations began, but the Bureau of Reclamation decided that’s not the case,” Broderick said. “If those negotiations are successful, we’ve got pipe in the ground and the conduit can begin to move ahead.”

That means Reclamation will be able to begin negotiations with the Pueblo Board of Water Works and Colorado Springs Utilities for use of the joint use pipeline that leads from the south outlet of Pueblo Dam to the Whitlock Treatment Plant.

The Pueblo water board owns the pipeline and the treatment plant. Colorado Springs Utilities paid the water board $3.5 million to upsize the pipeline by one foot in diameter, planning to use it for the Southern Delivery System. Since that time, SDS has taken a different route to move water from Lake Pueblo through the north outlet on the dam, and would not need the additional capacity.

The pipeline from the south outlet has a total capacity of 248 million gallons per day. Of that, 40 mgd is reserved to serve Comanche power plant and 140 mgd to serve Pueblo.

By paying to upsize the pipeline, Colorado Springs reserved 68 mgd, but the conduit would only require 14 mgd, said Terry Book, executive director of the Pueblo water board.

Reclamation also must negotiate with the Pueblo water board for locating a treatment plant at Whitlock to filter water used in the Arkansas Valley Conduit. By moving those discussions ahead, the federal cost will be reduced from $12 million to about $3 million in the coming year, but more funds would be required to begin actual design work, Broderick said.

Meanwhile, Colorado lawmakers continue to fight for more federal funding.

During a U.S. House committee hearing this week, Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., told Reclamation officials the conduit is a high priority.

“The members of the Colorado delegation are committed to the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Reclamation knows that this project offers an effective regional answer to meeting federally mandated Safe Drinking Act standards,” said Tipton.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


Southern Delivery System on track to be online in 2016

March 20, 2014
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

he Southern Delivery System is on course to begin operating in 2016.

“It will be complete for testing purposes in 2015,” SDS Permit Manager Mark Pifher told the Lower Arkansas Conservancy District in an impromptu update Wednesday.

SDS is a 50-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs. When completed, it will serve Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West. Nearly all of the pipeline is in the ground, and construction has begun at three pumping stations, including one near Pueblo Dam, Pifher said. While all parts of SDS will be complete by next year, the system will require months of testing before it is put into use.

“When it’s finished, the water won’t be delivered,” Pifher said. “It won’t be pushing water to customers until 2016.”

The Lower Ark district has been in negotiations for years with Colorado Springs on the impacts of SDS, particularly increased flows on Fountain Creek. Pifher updated the Lower Ark board on the progress of stormwater meetings in Colorado Springs.

A committee of El Paso County citizens is working toward putting a stormwater enterprise proposal on the November ballot. Fees would be about the same as under the former enterprise, which Colorado Springs City Council abolished in 2009, Pifher said.

The Lower Ark board also got a review of the U.S. Geological Survey of dams on Fountain Creek from USGS Pueblo office chief David Mau. Noting the study was funded by Colorado Springs (under its 1041 agreement with Pueblo County), Pifher said an alternative for 10 side detention ponds south of Fountain held the most promise for reducing flood impacts on Pueblo. Pifher also downplayed the immediate impacts of SDS on Fountain Creek.

“When we turn it on, it will carry 5 million-10 million gallons per day,” Pifher said.

Over 50 years, that will increase flows up to 96 million gallons per day.

“It will take some time to grow into demand on that system,” Pifher said.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: Reclamation approves cross-connection for the North and South outlet works

March 9, 2014
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Ever since it began storing water 40 years ago, the Pueblo Dam has been evolving as the needs of water users change. The next step will integrate the south outlet works with the newly constructed north outlet works on the face of the dam to provide more reliability to the urban populations that depend on Lake Pueblo as a source of water. The cross-connection is part of the package approved last week by the Bureau of Reclamation. Other pieces are the Arkansas Valley Conduit and a master contract for some members of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

“We get a better quality of water coming out of the reservoir. That cuts down on chemicals used for taste and odor issues,” said Terry Book, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

The cross-connection will allow users of both outlets to continue using the dam when one outlet or the other is closed in an emergency or for planned maintenance.

“When one goes down, you can pull from the other side and still get part of your water,” Book said.

The dam was completed in 1974, but the south outlet — as the name implies, is on the south side of the Arkansas River — wasn’t used until 1983, when Pueblo West took its initial diversion of water. Two years later, the Fountain Valley Conduit, which serves Colorado Springs and four nearby water providers, began drawing from the south outlet. Pueblo hooked onto the south outlet in 2002, after gaining a license in 2000. The south outlet also supplies the Pueblo fish hatchery, operated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The north outlet — formerly the primary outlet for the Arkansas River — was completed last year as part of the Southern Delivery System, which will begin serving Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West in 2016.

The Southeastern district, Colorado Springs and Pueblo water board are jointly developing a hydropower project at the north outlet works, which also continues to provide water to the Arkansas River.

There also are three gates that can empty water into the basin below the dam when the north outlet is closed. The Bessemer Ditch also has a direct connection to Pueblo Dam.

Before the interconnect is constructed, it would require a 40-year contract between Reclamation and those parties using the outlets.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.


Glenwood Springs RICD application draws 13 statements of opposition #ColoradoRiver

March 7, 2014
City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

One of the 13 formal “statements of opposition” filed in the case as of Thursday comes from another of Glenwood Springs’ major recreational attractions, the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool.

The Hot Springs, in a Feb. 27 water court filing, renewed its long-standing concerns that any whitewater park features constructed in and along the river near the springs’ aquifer could potentially harm the springs.

“Operation of the [proposed] Two Rivers Whitewater Park facilities may inundate and damage portions of the Colorado River riverbed and adjacent river banks,” which could in turn damage the Hot Springs Pool facilities, according to the filing by Hot Springs attorney Scott Balcomb.

At issue would be a proposed location for a potential new whitewater park at the east end of Two Rivers Park, just above the confluence with the Roaring Fork River. It’s one of three possible locations identified in the city of Glenwood Springs’ request filed late last year for a recreational in-channel diversion, or RICD. The others are near the No Name rest area on I-70 in Glenwood Canyon, and in the Horseshoe Bend section of the river just east of town, by the No Name Tunnels…

The city now hopes to build on the economic success of the whitewater sports boom by building a second play park. To accomplish that, however, it will have to negotiate with the various entities that have filed as opposers to make sure their concerns are satisfied. That could take several years, said Mark Hamilton, a water attorney who is representing the city of Glenwood Springs in ushering the case through Colorado’s water court.

“For a case like this, that’s not unexpected,” he said of the number of entities that have taken the formal step of opposing the city’s RICD request.

Just because an entity files a statement of opposition doesn’t necessarily mean that they will ultimately object to the request, Hamilton explained. It just means that they want to be party to the negotiations so that any current or future concerns are heard as the plans take shape, he said.

Hamilton said he believes the proposed Two Rivers Park location would be far enough downstream from the hot springs that it should not be a concern.

“Obviously, everybody acknowledges that the Hot Springs Pool is and will continue to be an important part of Glenwood Springs’ economy, and their concerns are something that will have to be a part of this discussion,” Hamilton said…

Other heavy hitters that have filed to be part of the discussions include the Denver Water Board, the state’s largest water utility which owns significant water rights on the Colorado River, plus the city of Colorado Springs, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and several upstream and downstream water users.

Denver Water would not have been able to oppose the request by Glenwood Springs under the recent new Colorado River Cooperative Agreement it signed with Western Slope water interests, except that the request is for more water during certain times of the year than Denver had agreed to in that deal, Hamilton also said.

The city’s request seeks a “shoulder season” base flow of 1,250 cubic feet per second during the month of April each year and again from July 24 through Sept. 30. That is less than the 1,280 cfs Denver Water agreed it would not object to. However, Glenwood also requests a maximum flow rate not to exceed 4,000 cfs for up to five days between May 11 and July 6 each year, and 2,500 cfs for as many as 46 days between April 30 and May 10 and July 7-23.

The extra amount during those times could impair Denver Water’s ability to divert water under the separate Shoshone relaxation agreement, according to the utility’s statement of opposition filed Feb. 28. Further, the request could also affect Denver Water’s ability to implement its agreement with Grand County for municipal, snowmaking and environmental purposes, the utility claims.

Grand County, which recently had its own RICD request OK’d, filed a formal statement of support for the Glenwood Springs request.

“Grand County has been actively involved in efforts to preserve, protect, restore, and improve streams in the headwaters of the Colorado River and its tributaries and resolve various controversies with Denver Water,” the county stated in support of Glenwood’s application. “The [RICD] that this application seeks is consistent with Grand County’s efforts.”

Hamilton said the case has been assigned to a water referee in Glenwood Springs to oversee the initial negotiations. There will also be an administrative hearing before the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which will make a recommendation on the request.

He noted that the Grand County case is nearing completion after about 3-1/2 years, while a similar request recently granted to the town of Carbondale for a RICD on the Roaring Fork River took multiple years to process as well.

From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

Three of the objectors are municipal water providers on the Front Range — Denver Water, Aurora Water, and Colorado Springs Utilities. They depend on water from the Colorado River basin and are concerned about new recreational water rights limiting their future water management options.

Three entities — the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), the BLM and the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge and Pool — are concerned about the proposed locations of the whitewater parks.

The Colorado River District, which represents 15 counties on the Western Slope, is generally supportive of Glenwood’s application, according to the district’s attorney Peter Fleming, but like the Front Range entities, it also has concerns about limiting the amount of water available for future junior water rights upstream of the proposed whitewater parks.

The West Divide Water Conservancy District, based in Rifle, simply told the court it “is the owner of vested water rights that may be injured by the granting of this application.”

Another four entities say they just want to monitor the case: the town of Gypsum; the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District in Palisade; the Ute Water Conservancy District and the Grand Valley Water Users Association, both in Grand Junction.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) also filed a statement, as it routinely does for applications of a new “recreational in-channel diversion right,” or RICD. The state agency is charged with reviewing such proposals and sending findings to water court.

And Grand County has filed a document perhaps unique to water court — a “statement in opposition in support of application.” This means Grand County supports Glenwood’s applications, but wants to be involved in the case via the filing of a required statement of opposition…

Technically, there were 13 statements of opposition filed in the case. The three Grand Valley water users, however, filed a joint application, so there are a total of 15 objecting entities. And Aurora and Colorado Springs, in addition to each filing a statement, also filed together as the Homestake Steering Committee. The two cities are partners in the Homestake Reservoir on the headwaters of the Eagle River, which flows into the Colorado River at Dotsero, which is located above the three proposed whitewater parks…

He said he expected that Denver Water would file an objection, as Glenwood has asked for the rights to more than 1,250 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water. That rate of flow is the same as the senior water right held by Xcel Energy for the Shoshone hydro plant, which also is above the three proposed whitewater parks…

And that’s the amount of water for a Glenwood whitewater park that Denver Water said it could support in the recently finalized Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which was signed by Denver Water and 17 other entities.

“One of the provisions for support was that the recreational in-channel diversion wouldn’t exceed 1,250 cfs at the Dotsero gage,” said Travis Thompson, a media coordinator with Denver Water. “This is the amount of water needed to mimic the senior Shoshone call.”[...]

Hamilton, Glenwood’s water attorney, said the requested water rights sought above 1,250 cfs are “purely based on kayakers and boaters saying it sure would be great to have that much flow.”

He said he’s in discussions with Denver Water about Glenwood’s application and will soon be talking with all the objectors in the case…

And the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge and Pool is concerned that wave-creating structures built in the river near the hot springs pool could harm the underground aquifer that supplies hot water to the pool. Kjell Mitchell, the president and CEO of the Hot Springs Lodge and Pool, said engineering studies have shown the boundary of the underground aquifer extends from above the pool to below Two Rivers Park. The city has proposed that one of its whitewater parks be built just above Two Rivers Park.

“The primary issue of our concern is the potential scouring of the river which could create a hole in the bottom of the river and damage the aquifer,” Mitchell said.

More whitewater coverage here.


Cascade: Water rates going up

March 2, 2014

pikespeak

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Matt Steiner):

Jennifer Tanaka, an attorney for the Cascade Metropolitan District, said the $25 increase for residents with a standard, three-quarter inch tap will help the district offset costs related to a legal dispute with Colorado Springs Utilities. CSU has been leasing water to the western El Paso County town as part of a pact signed in 1990.

“The board made it clear that the fee is only for the purpose of repaying the city,” Tanaka said of the decision made at Tuesday’s meeting. “Once everything is paid off, the fee goes away.”

According to Tanaka, a trial between CSU and the district was avoided by an agreement made in mid February. The Cascade Metropolitan District has an outstanding debt of $495,000 owed to the utilities company.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


Southern Delivery System: CSU amends water court applications to remove facilities that will not be built

February 16, 2014
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

With Southern Delivery System well under construction, Colorado Springs Utilities is cleaning up water court applications that dealt with alternatives that are now off the table. Specifically, a recent amendment to Colorado Springs’ water exchange rights on the Arkansas River removes Elephant Rock reservoir in Chaffee County and a diversion near Penrose in Fremont County as points of exchange.

“Clearly, with the North Outlet Works almost completed, we’re not going to be building a diversion at Highway 115 (near Penrose),” said Brett Gracely, water resources administrator for Utilities.

The plan for Elephant Rock reservoir near Buena Vista met with protests when it was first suggested in Colorado Springs water plans in the 1990s. Colorado Springs kept the plan on the table in several court filings over the years, but looked to Pueblo Dam to build SDS.

Signs that read, “Don’t dam this valley” remained in view of travelers on U.S. 285 for years.w

The signs were taken down after Colorado Springs officials formally declared the Elephant Rock plan dead during a 2012 ceremony in Salida, Gracely said.

The amended application, filed last month in Division 2 water court, allows Colorado Springs to return flows to the Arkansas River from SDS on Fountain Creek for out of priority storage in Lake Pueblo.

The proposed structures in Chaffee and Fremont counties will be removed as they come up for review in water court, Gracely said.

The first phase of SDS should be online in 2016.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Arkansas Valley Super Ditch update: ‘The objective is to develop a tool to look at lease-fallowing effects’ — Rick Parsons

January 22, 2014
Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A comprehensive study of Arkansas River water use that will aid the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch in temporary water transfers is nearing completion. “The objective is to develop a tool to look at lease-fallowing effects and quantify the amount of water to be exchanged,” Rick Parsons, an engineering consultant, told the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District on Wednesday. The district has helped Super Ditch since its formation in 2008 as a way to allow farmers to lease water without selling their underlying water rights, preventing the dry-up of farmland. The district and Super Ditch are working on a pilot program with Fowler this year.

The Super Ditch has contemplated several strategies for moving water, including filing an exchange decree in water court, using existing substitute water supply plans and creating pilot projects under last year’s HB1248. The problem has been getting water users to agree to how those exchanges will avoid damaging other water rights.

Since 2011, Parsons has been compiling information about how water is used in the Arkansas River basin, looking at river operations from 1980-2013. His model should be complete in May. The Super Ditch needs a model that will be generally accepted by other water users, Parsons said. Parsons has met with the state, Colorado Springs Utilities, Aurora and the Pueblo Board of Water Works to glean information. He also has worked with ditch companies to obtain additional data.

The major obstacles at this point are reconciling data from different sources and understanding reservoir operations. Some Lake Pueblo operations related to Southern Delivery System are not clear because of proprietary information held by Colorado Springs Utilities, Parsons said. Reservoirs on the Colorado, Holbrook and Fort Lyon systems are operated by private companies.

“There are a million numbers in this model, and a million in the state database. Some of them are wrong,” Parsons said. “If this is used in a court document, it will be challenged to the nth degree. It has to be as transparent as possible.”

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.


Colorado Springs Utilities budget details

November 13, 2013
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

Other budget highlights include $44 million in payments and transfers to the city budget, which includes surplus payments; franchise fees from two water districts; payments to the city attorney office; and fees for permits and projects. This year, Utilities issued $130 million in bonds for the major capital projects with a 30-year payback. That puts Utilities’ total debt up to $2.4 billion compared to $4 billion in assets. It means that 16 percent of a customer’s utility bill goes strictly to paying down the debt.

The tentative budget also includes $6.6 million for stormwater-related projects, $5 million for regularly scheduled maintenance and $178 million for the Southern Delivery System project.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Southern Delivery System: Construction starting up on the Juniper pump station

October 30, 2013
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

There’s room in a $900 million water pipeline project for all sorts of businesses. Even brick-makers.

Joe Welte, whose grandfather founded Summit Brick and Tile in Pueblo in 1902, gave a brief account of his family’s business at Tuesday’s celebration for local contractors who have worked on the Southern Delivery System. The event also marked the beginning of work on the Juniper Pump Station, the final piece of SDS construction in Pueblo County. He concluded with a story about his brother Tom’s visit to an elementary school, where he asked students to build a wall using either klinkers — bricks deformed by heat — or straight bricks. The students chose straight bricks, saying the wall would tumble with klinkers on the foundation.

“Whether you are starting an education, planning your life or building for our water future, make sure that you use straight brick at the bottom,” Welte said.

Summit Brick is one of about 100 local companies that are benefiting from contracts for SDS, a water delivery pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs that also benefits Pueblo West. Its part is relatively small: 50,000 4-by-4-by-12-inch bricks for the facade of the Juniper Pump Station, which amounts to about two days’ production.

“With the downturn in the economy, this came at a good time,” Welte said.

The bricks played a symbolic role at Tuesday’s event, as representatives of local companies build a wall and received commemorative bricks — made in Pueblo County, of course.

The largest amount of local contracts went to ASI Constructors, which holds three contracts for $50 million. The company builds dams and other water projects all over the world.

“It’s not often that we get to participate in a project of this magnitude in our own backyard,” ASI President John Bowen said.

He touted the safety of the project, 68,000 man-hours without a lost-time accident, and economic benefit, $800,000 in wages, for his company alone.

Government officials from both El Paso and Pueblo counties, including newly elected state Sens. George Rivera of Pueblo and Bernie Herpin of Colorado Springs, attended the event as well.

From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

On Tuesday, the city kicked off construction of the Juniper pump station not far from the outlet from the dam that was built earlier as part of SDS. It’s one of three pump stations that, according to Colorado Springs Utilities, represent some of the largest components of the project; cumulatively, they’ll cost $76.5 million. A third of that will go to Colorado contractors. The prime contractor is Archer Western Constructors of Arlington, Texas.

To update, here are some notes on SDS’ progress, provided by Springs Utilities:

• The SDS pump stations will move water 1,500 feet in elevation from Pueblo Dam to the new water treatment plant under construction in El Paso County. At full capacity, SDS will be able to transport up to 96 million gallons of water per day (MGD) – 18 MGD to Pueblo West and the remaining 78 MGD to the El Paso County partner communities of Colorado Springs, Security and Fountain.

• Garney Construction of Kansas City, Mo., is installing a 0.3-mile, 90-inch-diameter pipeline that will link Pueblo Dam to the Pueblo West Metropolitan District and other project partners. After Colorado Springs, Pueblo West is the second leading beneficiary of the SDS project.

• Major SDS construction work commenced in Pueblo County in 2011 with the start of the new connection to Pueblo Dam. Since then 18 miles of pipe have been installed in Pueblo County and a total of 42 total miles installed project-wide. Recently, the SDS pipeline construction project through Pueblo West was recognized by Engineering News Record as the Best Water Project in 2013 for the mountain states region.

• Construction of the nearly $1 billion project is resulting in significant benefits to the local economy. To date, more than 300 companies and organizations in Colorado have helped plan and construct SDS, including 100 in Pueblo County. Of the more than $362 million spent to plan and build SDS, more than $289 million has gone to Colorado companies.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette:

When complete, the Juniper water pump station in Pueblo will have many motors and one of them will have the horsepower of four Formula 1 racing cars.

It will need it to pump water 1,500 feet in elevation from Pueblo Reservoir to Pueblo West, Fountain, Security and Colorado Springs. Juniper station at Lake Pueblo State Park will be one of three water pump stations needed to move up to 96 million gallons of water up hill 53 miles in the Colorado Springs Utilities’ Southern Delivery System pipeline…

The entire $1 billion project is expected to be completed by April 2016 and could pump 5 million gallons daily at first but with eventual capacity to pump up to 96 million gallons daily.

From the Colorado Springs Business Journal (Rebecca Tonn):

The Southern Delivery System starts construction of the Juniper Pump Station at Lake Pueblo State Park and the last remaining section of pipeline in Pueblo County on [October 29, 2013]. Area businesses that will perform work or provide materials to build SDS components in the county will participate in a brick-laying ceremony, from 2 – 3 p.m.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Six cities eyeing gravel pit storage east of Pueblo at Stonewall Springs

October 21, 2013
Stonewall Springs Reservoir site via The Pueblo Chieftain

Stonewall Springs Reservoir site via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Developing reservoirs east of Pueblo remains an important component of a 2004 agreement to protect Arkansas River flows through the city. So far, the participants in the six-party intergovernmental agreement have relied on stop-gap measures to recover water, but recently there has been more activity that could lead to long-term changes.

The situation was reviewed last week by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which is a minor player in the effort, but shares some of the planning costs.

Colorado Springs, Aurora and the Pueblo Board of Water Works are the major players, and they have each had a role in the recovery of yield program. Fountain and the Southeastern district have smaller parts.

“This is an important regional effort to understand the allocation costs,” said Gary Bostrom, water chief for Colorado Springs Utilities, and a Southeastern board member.

The Pueblo water board took the lead in locating a reservoir site in 2005, trying to lease the Stonewall Springs site near the Pueblo Chemical Depot. When the cost proved too high, it was bought by private developers who proceeded with reservoir plans and a gravel mining operation.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has an agreement to purchase a reservoir being developed by Stonewall Springs LLC, and it could be a candidate for municipal storage, said Bob Hamilton, Southeastern’s engineering director. Cities could participate by contributing water or money.

A nearby reservoir plan by Two Rivers Water and Farming Co. on Southwest Farms appears less likely. Alan Hamel, chairman of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said Two Rivers’ loan application for the project will be “de-authorized” in November.

Both sets of reservoirs would be filled and emptied by gravity flows on the Excelsior Ditch.

A third plan is being tested by Colorado Springs that involves pumping between gravel pits just east of the Pueblo wastewater treatment plant.

Up until now, Colorado Springs and Aurora have bypassed the most water, recapturing some of it in a reservoir on the Holbrook Canal north of La Junta under an agreement brokered by Aurora.

More insfrastructure coverage here.


‘This is the last significant water rate increase we anticipate for the SDS project’ — Gary Bostrom

October 20, 2013
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

Capital projects dominate the 2014 utilities budget with more than $391 million planned for construction, including $229 million for two massive projects, the Southern Delivery System and bringing the coal-fired Martin Drake and Ray Nixon power plants up to federal Environmental Protection Agency standards.

To the residents, whose utility bills contribute 78 percent of the total utilities operating budget, it means rate hikes to pay for those capital projects. A typical residential customer can expect a $9.37 monthly increase in their utility bills next year, which includes $5.99 for a water rate increase that was approved last year and kicks in Jan. 1. The combined rate increases will bring in an additional $31 million.

Colorado Springs Utilities Chief Planning and Finance Officer Bill Cherrier presented the proposed 2014 utilities budget to the City Council, which doubles as the utilities board of directors…

Utilities is nearing the finish line with one of its largest projects – SDS, a 53-mile water pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs. It’s a $1 billion project that started four years ago and amounted to four straight years of 10- and 12-percent water rate increases. In 2014, utilities will spend $178 million on SDS and expects to complete the project in 2016, said Gary Bostrom, chief of water services.

“This is the last significant water rate increase we anticipate for the SDS project,” Bostrom said.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Colorado Springs: Mayor Bach wants to elevate Parks to permanent favored water rate status over other rate payers

October 16, 2013
Colorado Springs circa 1910 via GhostDepot.com

Colorado Springs circa 1910 via GhostDepot.com

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

Mayor Steve Bach’s proposed 2014 parks budget is counting on a reduced water rate from Colorado Springs Utilities so that the city can water its parks at the same level it did in 2013. Bach’s budget seeks to spend $2.6 million on water in 2014. If the city cannot negotiate a lower water rate with Utilities, the city would need $1.3 million more – money that is not in the budget.

Council members Val Snider and Merv Bennett said the council is in discussions with Utilities about a reduced rate for the city, which started in 2010 under a pilot program…

What it means: The proposed park budget assumes Utilities would continue a discounted municipal water rate. The discounted rate applies during what has been called the irrigation season, from May to October. It would not apply to year-around watering.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Colorado Springs Utilities project: Pikeview to Mesa construction

September 29, 2013

From Colorado Spring Utilities:

In late September 2013, we started construction on a drought mitigation project that will have the ability to deliver an additional 8 million gallons of water a day to customers next spring. The initial phases of the project will include lane restrictions on West Fillmore Street.

The $8 million pipeline project will connect the Pikeview Reservoir, near I-25 and Garden of the Gods Road, to the Mesa Water Treatment Plant, near Mesa Road and Fillmore Street. The effort will enable us to maximize water rights in Monument Creek, and further insulate customers from existing and future droughts.

As part of the project, we will install a 24-inch diameter, raw water pipe underneath portions of West Fillmore Street, Chestnut Street, Ellston Street, Sinton Road, Sutton Lane and Interpark Drive.

Pipe installation will occur on Fillmore in two phases. The first phase, which began at the end of September, will include work between Centennial Boulevard and Grand Vista Circle, while the second phase will be between Sage Road and Centennial Boulevard.

Lane restrictions will be in effect for the impacted portions of Fillmore during construction. Heading west on Fillmore, traffic will be reduced to two through lanes, while eastbound traffic will be reduced to one through lane. Depending on construction activities, lane restrictions may vary. Alternate routes are strongly advised.

The drought mitigation project will not impact recent Pikes Peak Regional Transportation Authority roadwork near Fillmore and I-25. However, we will continue to coordinate construction efforts with PPRTA and the City of Colorado Springs.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Several El Paso County water suppliers are interested in Southern Delivery System deliveries

September 25, 2013
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic/Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic/USBR

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Even before a drop of water flows through Southern Delivery System, other El Paso County communities are making plans to hook up to the pipeline.

Donala Water & Sanitation District, which serves 2,600 people north of Colorado Springs plans to begin an environmental impact statement process with Bureau of Reclamation within the next two weeks in order to obtain a long-term storage contract in Lake Pueblo.

Cherokee Metro District, serving about 18,000 people in a community surrounded by Colorado Springs, wants to hook up to SDS in the future.

Those communities will be held to the same environmental commitments, including federal environmental review and stormwater management, under Pueblo County’s 1041 permit.

Donala purchased a ranch south of Leadville for its water rights in 2009, but will need SDS to deliver about 280 acrefeet annually — about 25 percent of its needs. “We have been talking to the city for years,” said Kip Peterson, manager of the Donala District. Donala already has a temporary contract in place to use Colorado Springs water delivery systems to deliver water from the ranch.

Stormwater controls are problematic, because 95 percent of the land in Donala already has been developed, but the district is looking at how to amend its plan to address stormwater, Peterson said.

Like Donala, Cherokee has a contract to buy water from or have its water delivered by Colorado Springs Utilities. Cherokee has a two-year lease from the Pueblo Board of Water Works. Cherokee gets most of its water from wells, but needs additional sources to round out its supply. “Unlike Donala, we don’t yet own any water we could store in Lake Pueblo,” said Sean Chambers, Cherokee manager.

But Cherokee is interested in using SDS for the long-term. Like Colorado Springs, it has some water and wastewater lines that cross Sand Creek, a tributary of Fountain Creek. Those would be held to the same level of scrutiny as Colorado Springs lines.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Colorado Springs: ‘We could spend billions, but we can’t stop the flooding’ — Paul Kleinschmidt

September 25, 2013
Fountain Creek Watershed

Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A rift between Colorado Springs City Council and Mayor Steve Bach widened Tuesday over the issue of stormwater funding. Colorado Springs City Council voted Tuesday to spend $35,000 to support a stormwater task force, matching $35,000 each from Colorado Springs Utilities and El Paso County, for a total of $105,000. Council also voted to hire its own legal counsel for stormwater issues.

There has been pressure from Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District to fund stormwater projects as part of Colorado Springs’ environmental commitments relating to the Southern Delivery System.

The move comes as the task force is moving toward putting a stormwater tax on the November 2014 ballot as a way of addressing a $900 million backlog in stormwater needs through a regional approach. It also reflects dissatisfaction with Bach, who has refused to participate in stormwater task force meetings.

City Attorney Chris Melcher angrily contested the move, claiming that his office has attorneys with expertise in stormwater, but had never been asked to advise council on stormwater. He said the city charter does not allow conflicting legal opinions and he questioned the expenditure both by council and Utilities.

Several council members rebuked Melcher, asking why no one from his office has attended high-profile task force meetings, and why he has favored Bach on matters related to stormwater. “I understand you’re hired by the mayor, but that’s not my issue,” Council President Keith King told Melcher, adding that if it were possible, council would fire him. “We have not been given the kind of service that we need.”

“If you pass this resolution and decide to act, it is in violation of the charter,” Melcher said.

Council has worked with El Paso County for more than a year to develop a regional approach to stormwater, but now fears that it would again be underfunded as the mayor moves ahead with a separate approach to lump infrastructure needs into one funding scheme. “I’m concerned that stormwater would be folded into all the other infrastructure needs,” said Councilman Joel Miller.

Larry Small, a former councilman who is the executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, urged council to continue the regional approach, saying it has worked well on other issues such as transportation in the Pikes Peak area.

Doug Bruce, a former county commissioner, state representative and convicted tax evader, contested council’s move, saying it is a waste of money that doesn’t solve anything. Bruce said the money would be better spent cutting down trees that have been allowed to grow in Fountain Creek.

Paul Kleinschmidt, of Taxpayers for Budget Reform, opposed spending money on the task force as well. “We could spend billions, but we can’t stop the flooding,” he said.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


Southern Delivery System update: North outlet works ready to roll, most of the pipe is in the ground

September 22, 2013
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A major water pipeline through Pueblo County has moved quickly since construction began two years ago. A connection at Pueblo Dam is complete, all but a fraction of Southern Delivery System pipeline is in the ground and work will start soon on the Juniper Pump Station, Colorado Springs Utilities officials told Pueblo County Commissioners last week.

“There has been significant progress on construction in Pueblo County,” said John Fredell, SDS program director for Utilities. That includes more than 18 miles of pipeline through Pueblo West and the northern part of Pueblo County on Walker Ranches.

Under the 1041 permit, Colorado Springs also has committed to spend at least $145 million in mitigation. About $42 million of that has been spent so far.

Commissioners are reviewing Colorado Springs commitments made under the 2009 1041 permit. Terry Hart, Sal Pace and Liane “Buffie” McFadyen all joined the board this year, and were not on the board when the permit was issued. Friday’s meeting was an opportunity for them to evaluate SDS compliance.

SDS also benefits Pueblo West, by more than doubling its water supply capacity and giving it another way to deliver water from Pueblo Dam.

“On our own, it would have been difficult to accomplish this,” Pueblo West Manager Jack Johnston told commissioners. “It’s been a $6 million cost to Pueblo West of a $30 million project.” Pueblo West now has a line that delivers 12 million gallons per day from the South Outlet Works. When SDS is complete, it will have another 18 million-gallon line from the new North Outlet Works. “Everything they committed to has been exceeded,” Johnston said.

Pueblo County staff has received quarterly and annual updates on compliance with the 1041 regulations, said Keith Riley, deputy program director for SDS. During the four-hour hearing there were some complaints from Pueblo West landowners about the way they have been treated as the pipeline crossed their property. But Riley pointed out that condemnation of property was a last resort, and some of the purchases of houses along the route provided materials for Habitat for Humanity and training opportunities for firefighters. Any large project is bound to leave some people unhappy, he said. “My heart goes out to those who have been (adversely) affected,” Riley told commissioners. “Our staff does care about landowners and we plan to respond to each point.”

Hart, who chairs the commission, said the county plans to see that Colorado Springs lives up to its commitment. “We’ve directed staff to match the comments we heard today with the conditions in the 1041 agreement and see if we can settle the differences,” Hart said.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

While Colorado Springs officials painted a serene picture of compliance with Pueblo County 1041 permit conditions, local landowners offered different viewpoints. After listening to a presentation addressing major points of the Southern Delivery System by Colorado Springs Utilities staff, several people took issue with the rosy outlook.

Dwain Maxwell plopped down a 6-inchthick stack of paper and explained how a team of Colorado Springs lawyers outflanked him in court over what he says is a low-ball property appraisal for an easement on his property in Pueblo West.

LaVetta Kay told about how her complaints of workers trespassing on her property were disregarded by SDS management.

Engineer Laurie Clark showed photos of how large areas of pipeline revegetation areas on Walker Ranches have been washed out by relatively light summer storms.

Jane Rhodes talked about how unchecked flows on Fountain Creek continue to wash acres of her ranch land downstream. “I only have two acres, but they’re just as important to me as Gary Walker’s thousands of acres,” Maxwell told the board.

A Pueblo district court jury awarded Maxwell only $1,850, rather than the $2,200 Colorado Springs Utilities first offered him or the $18,500 his own appraiser valued the property. Commission Chairman Terry Hart asked Keith Riley, assistant project director for SDS, why Utilities did not pay Maxwell the amount it originally offered. “What I worry about when I hear about this is that Mr. Maxwell was not properly represented,” Hart said.

“The court ordered us to pay $1,850,” Riley replied.

Maxwell said the construction led to dust and disruption. Revegetation has created 4-foot tall weeds due to overwatering, but little grass. “Their promises have not been followed,” Maxwell said. Construction has created problems for Kay as well.

“I get no communication,” she said. “There’s no accountability. They disrespect me and disregard my property.”

Clark’s photos countered Utilities slides that portrayed orderly green­ belts along the pipeline route. Instead, large ravines that cross the pipeline route were gouged out, ruining revegetation that had begun. Utilities is aware of the problems and is working with Walker to solve them, said Mark Pifher, permit manager.

Rhodes’ problems relate to stormwater control, a long-standing problem on Fountain Creek that she believes will be made worse by SDS. “With all of the water coming from the north, when SDS gets done and in full force, we possibly won’t have any farms on Fountain Creek,” Rhodes said.

Commissioners directed staff to compile complaints according to conditions Colorado Springs agreed to in the 1041 permit and determine if they can be resolved. “This gives us an opportunity to address any issues out there and see where we are headed,” Hart said.

Colorado Springs indicated it would work with Pueblo County in resolving issues. “We take our obligations seriously and are sure that we could meet every one of them,” Utilities CEO Jerry Forte told him.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Southern Delivery System construction has provided a shot in the arm to Pueblo County’s economy, commissioners heard during a meeting last week on the progress of SDS. “There has been a positive economic benefit to Pueblo,” said John Bowen, president of ASI Constructors.

The Pueblo West company won a $50 million contract for construction of the North Outlet Works at Pueblo Dam and some of the pipeline associated with SDS. “We’ve added employees during the recession,” Bowen said. “We are part of balancing the public trust with environmental concerns.”

It is important to ASI and Pueblo County for SDS to stay on course for its 2016 completion, because that will speed up work on Fountain Creek. ASI would be among bidders for future dam projects, he said.

Sherri Weber of M&S Trucking in Boone also spoke of the economic benefits. The company has hauled materials to construction sites for nearly two years under its SDS contract.

Overall, Colorado Springs Utilities said it has spent $60 million with more than 100 Pueblo County contractors. The total spent through the end of July on SDS construction was $382 million.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo County commissioners Friday looked at a menu of issues ranging from economic benefits to environmental damage surrounding construction of the Southern Delivery System pipeline through the county. Hanging over the discussion like a storm cloud, however, was whether Colorado Springs is serious about reining in flood control, as its council once promised. “In light of the recent flooding in Colorado Springs, this is a timely meeting that brings up concerns that have been with us for a long time,” Commissioner Sal Pace said. “The low point was in 2009, with the elimination of the stormwater enterprise.”

It was a repeated theme throughout a four-hour meeting. Resolving Fountain Creek issues played a big role in years of discussions that led to Bureau of Reclamation approval of the $940 million SDS project.

The 1041 permit itself does not require any level of spending or even that a stormwater enterprise has to be in place. It only requires that return flows from SDS do not exacerbate flows, said Mark Pifher, SDS permit manager. That position is being contested by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, which this week decided to sue the Bureau of Reclamation, which issued a favorable record of decision for SDS based on the existence of a stormwater enterprise.

At Friday’s meeting, Jay Winner, Lower Ark general manager, asked Colorado Springs officials why council chose to drop the stormwater enterprise in 2009 while ignoring the main goal of the 2009 Proposition 300, which was to elimi­nate Utilities transfers to the city’s general fund. The move came after Springs voters defeated a 2008 issue to make stormwater payments voluntary. “As elected officials, we felt there was a message from voters that the stormwater fee should be stopped,” said Colorado Springs Councilwoman Jan Martin, the only council member still serving who was on the board in 2009. She voted to repeal the enterprise.

Martin is working on a stormwater task force that plans to put a ballot issue for a stormwater fee or tax on the November 2014 ballot in Colorado Springs and El Paso County. What appears on the ballot depends in part on a prioritization of needs ordered by Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach, who has not cooperated with the task force.

Dorothy Butcher, a former state representative from Pueblo, questioned how much of current stormwater spending in Colorado Springs, reported at $46 million, is addressing the issue of reducing Pueblo flood impacts. “With your potential 2014 ballot initiative, if it’s turned down, what source of revenue will you use?”

Martin said the council would transfer money from other sources, as it is doing now, adding that she is confident voters will support a ballot issue that clearly outlines its purpose, such as last year’s ballot measure to continue a transportation tax.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


The Lower Ark District is moving to file a complaint against Reclamation over SDS Record of Decision

September 20, 2013
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A federal decision on the Southern Delivery System is headed to court. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District is preparing a complaint to file in federal court over the Bureau of Reclamation’s refusal to reopen its record of decision on SDS. The central issue is the abolishment of the Colorado Springs stormwater enterprise in 2009, which was in place when Reclamation granted approval of a 40-year contract for storage, exchange and connection at Pueblo Dam for SDS.

“I’m asking our board to draft a legal complaint against the Bureau of Reclamation,” said Melissa Esquibel, a Pueblo County board member. “We’ve asked the Bureau of Reclamation to reopen the record of decision, and gotten no action. We need to direct staff to draft a lawsuit.”

Lower Ark board members say SDS should not be allowed to deliver water until the stormwater issue is resolved. “If there had not been a stormwater enterprise, SDS never would have gotten a 1041 permit,” said Anthony Nunez, a Lower Ark board member who was a Pueblo County commissioner in 2009.

Last year, the Lower Ark district sent letters to Reclamation asking to reopen the record of decision on the stormwater issue. Reclamation declined to take any action.

This will be the second lawsuit the Lower Ark district has filed against Reclamation, if the board approves it at its October meeting. In 2007, the Lower Ark sued Reclamation over a 40-year storage and exchange contract with Aurora, claiming it illegally allowed the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to move water out of the Arkansas River basin. The lawsuit was settled in 2009, after Aurora and the Lower Ark signed an agreement for mitigation of some of the issues surrounding the contract.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Flood protection for the Lower Arkansas Valley should not be an afterthought. That message was delivered to Colorado Springs Wednesday during a presentation about regional stormwater efforts in El Paso County to the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Protection District. “We quibble about data. What I want to see is the problem fixed,” Lower Ark General Manager Jay Winner told Mark Pifher, point man for the Southern Delivery System.

Colorado Springs Utilities disputes the Lower Ark’s interpretation of state and federal data about water quality. The Lower Ark claims it shows higher flows have increased sedimentation and bacteria in Fountain Creek since Colorado Springs got rid of its stormwater enterprise in 2009. Pifher countered that’s just because of higher peak flows in the past three years. Fountain Creek monitoring has begun and safeguards are built into the Bureau of Reclamation’s contract through an adaptive management program if unexpected pollution occurs, he said. A stormwater task force and Mayor Steve Bach are close to coming to consensus and moving a stormwater issue to the 2014 ballot.

All of which served to aggravate Pueblo County members of the Lower Ark board:

“My heartburn is that the discussions center around the Black Forest and Waldo Canyon as far as Fountain Creek is concerned, but nothing for us” said Melissa Esquibel. “I don’t think anything substantive has happened.”

“It’s been a fractured thing up there since I was a commissioner. It almost doesn’t seem real. We’ve heard the same thing over and over and over,” said Anthony Nunez. “I have to say there is a small amount of trust.”

“We have to put limits on SDS until the stormwater issue is taken on,” said Reeves Brown.

Colorado Springs voters defeated a Doug Bruce measure in 2008 to make payment of stormwater fees voluntary by 30,000 votes, but City Council abolished the stormwater enterprise after a second ballot measure that did not even mention it by name passed in 2009, Winner said. While Bruce campaigned against a “rain tax,” the 2009 Proposition specifically tried to sever utility payments from the Colorado Springs general fund. Council has not ended Utilities payment in lieu of taxes, Pifher said in response to a question by Winner.

Pifher said stormwater fees would be collected again beginning as soon as 2015 if voters approve it in 2014. That didn’t do much to allay fears. “You got what you needed and the stormwater enterprise went away,” Winner said. “Do you see the pattern here?”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Fountain Creek: ‘People who have never thought about stormwater are thinking about it now’ — Mark Pifher

September 18, 2013

fountaincreekwatershed.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

After a week of rain, the time seems right. “People who have never thought about stormwater are thinking about it now,” Mark Pifher, Colorado Springs Utilities point man for the Southern Delivery System, told the Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday. Rainy days, coupled with mudslides off forest lands that burned in the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire have made stormwater an in-your-face reality for El Paso County communities in the Fountain Creek watershed.

Meanwhile, there is a lingering concern about whether enough is being done from Pueblo’s point of view. “This is a vital concern to Pueblo and downstream communities,” said Mike Cafasso, chairman of the Pueblo water board.

“This community has been waiting,” added board member Tom Autobee. “It’s kind of come to a head with what we’ve seen in the last few days.”

A ballot issue asking for a stormwater tax or fee is headed for the 2014 ballot, Pifher told the water board. A final recommendation about the specifics of the proposal, form of payment and amount of funding is expected by January. “What happens if it doesn’t pass?” board member Nick Gradisar asked.

“There’s the possibility that some funds can be shifted,” Pifher said.

Colorado Springs has spent or pledged to spend more than $300 million on stormwaterrelated activities since 2000, including $173 million for sewer line fortification after damage from flooding in 1999 and more than $130 million for mitigation related to SDS.

Pifher detailed the progress of an El Paso County stormwater task force that formed last year, explaining that the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires have added to a backlog of projects that totals $900 million. He also touched on the internal politics between Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach, City Council and El Paso County commissioners. Bach chose not to participate in the task force.

Pifher disputed charges by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District that water quality in Fountain Creek has worsened and flows have increased because of inaction on stormwater. He plans to address those issues with the Lower Ark board today.

Colorado Springs is not required under SDS permits to spend a certain amount on stormwater or have an enterprise in place, although other communities seeking to use SDS are required to have stormwater controls similar to Colorado Springs in place, Pifher said.

He touted the city’s drainage criteria manual as a unifying document that should improve regional storm controls. “We know we need to address stormwater issues in order to make regional alliances,” Pifher said.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


Drought news: Colorado Springs meets conservation goal for the water year #COdrought

September 6, 2013

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

Residents, watering their lawns only two days a week and helped by summer rain, used 5.8 billion gallons less than last summer and as of Thursday have met the city’s water-savings goal. That leaves 1.8 years of water in storage, “meaning if we never got another drop into the system, there is enough water in storage to protect residents’ health and safety for 1.8 years,” said Patrice Lehermeier, Colorado Springs Utilities spokeswoman…

It was likely a combination of watering restrictions, higher water rates and lots of rain that helped the city meet its goal three weeks early, Lehermeier said.

Now the city will wait on Mother Nature to deliver snow this winter – the melted snowpack is what fills the city’s reservoirs, Lehermeier said. But Colorado Springs Utilities water planners already are working on next summer’s water plan, which is likely to include watering restrictions and a new water savings goal.

More Colorado Springs Utilities coverage here.


Fountain Creek: ‘What I would like to see is for Pueblo to stop being flooded’ — Buffie McFayden

September 3, 2013

fountaincreekmonsoonjuly2012.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Fountain Creek connects Pueblo with Colorado Springs, and controlling it remains a key issue if the Southern Delivery System is to be turned on in three years. So there is bound to be a torrent of discussion on a stormwater enterprise, dams on Fountain Creek and water quality over the next few months.

Pueblo County commissioners set the stage last week for a Sept. 20 meeting to air issues surrounding the county’s 1041 permit for SDS. While there is a varied menu of issues that were hammered out over several months back in 2008-09, it’s clear that Fountain Creek is at the top of the agenda. “I don’t know if any of this works, because I’ve seen the power of the water,” Commissioner Liane “Buffie” McFadyen said last week after reviewing a federal study of dams on Fountain Creek. “What I would like to see is for Pueblo to stop being flooded and for people in north Pueblo County to keep from losing their land to these floods.”

The commissioners — none of whom were on the board when the 1041 permit was negotiated — also are working through the details of exactly how to handle $50 million, plus interest, that was pledged by Colorado Springs to protect Pueblo from flooding that will be made worse by SDS. Their lawyers are focusing the board on what it can do to keep Colorado Springs on track with the conditions agreed to in the 1041 permit.

But a different set of issues is swirling around the sides.

Chief among them is stormwater. It was taken for granted by the Bureau of Reclamation in the studies leading up to a 40-year contract for SDS to operate from Pueblo Dam. In the 1041 conditions, only the incremental flows directly caused by SDS are mentioned. “It’s a moral question and potentially a legal question,” Commissioner Sal Pace said.

In July, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District claimed flooding has worsened and water quality deteriorated after Colorado Springs City Council eliminated its stormwater enterprise fee in 2009. Commissioners want to hear that report, as well as the rebuttal from Colorado Springs Utilities.

Last week, public wrangling over the stormwater question broke out again in Colorado Springs. Mayor Steve Bach was quoted in the Gazette as favoring a city stormwater fee, while Council President Keith King argued for a regional approach — possibly extending to the confluence and including Pueblo.

The Colorado Springs Council plans hearings of its own in the next few months to sort out which approach voters would be most likely to favor.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


Drought news: Water temperatures soar below Pueblo Dam, not enough stored water to make a difference

September 1, 2013

NorthOutletWorksConeValveTestViaMWHGlobal.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Wildlife officials are watching water temperatures in the Arkansas River for potential harmful effects on fish. “The combination of low flows and weather are making for uncomfortable conditions for fish up and down the river,” said Doug Krieger, aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. While fishermen have reported finding some dead fish, it appears that fish in the water are not stressed, he added.

As temperatures climbed into the 90s this week, water temperatures in the Pueblo reach of the Arkansas River have hit 80 degrees or higher each day after flows dropped below 40 cubic feet per second at Moffat Street on Monday. Closer to Pueblo Dam, temperatures have been about 70 degrees.

The problem is being complicated by mud that washed into the river near the Nature and Raptor Center earlier this month, said Ben Wurster, of Steel City Anglers and Trout Unlimited. “It’s been so dry, and with no moisture the water heats up,” Wurster said.

There is little that can be done. There are about 5,000 acre-feet of agricultural water stored in Lake Pueblo, but farmers likely want to hold it back to start crops next year. Parks and Wildlife has some water, but not enough to make a difference. Cities have curtailed exchanges into Lake Pueblo, but are not releasing any additional water.

The Pueblo Board of Water Works and Colorado Springs have an agreement to release water to maintain flows of 50 cfs below Pueblo Dam once the Southern Delivery System is in operation. Conditions this week are not dry enough to trigger releases, even if that agreement were active.

In another development, the Bureau of Reclamation and Colorado Springs reached a temporary agreement to release water through the river gate on the North Outlet Works rather than the spillway.

Under its SDS contract, Reclamation will own the North Outlet Works, which was built by Colorado Springs. Details still are being negotiated.


Southern Delivery System: Pueblo County is setting the stage for 1041 hearings

August 27, 2013

arkansasfountainconverge.jpg

It looks like Pueblo County is about to get back in court with Colorado Springs, this time over compliance with the 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System (which is largely complete in the county). Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

Stormwater, revegetation, roads and other details of a county permit for the Southern Delivery System will be discussed at a public meeting next month. The Pueblo County commissioners want to hear comments from the public and discuss the progress of the project with Colorado Springs Utilities, leaving open the possibility of 1041 permit compliance hearings at a later date. “What we envision is a chance for Colorado Springs to respond to questions,” said Terry Hart, chairman of the commission. “We definitely want the ability for public participation.”

The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sept. 20 in the commission meeting chambers at the Pueblo County Courthouse.

Commissioners Monday reviewed issues surrounding SDS that have surfaced in recent months. They include issues of revegetation on Walker Ranches in northern Pueblo County.

Also at issue is a dispute over the interpretation of Colorado Springs stormwater data by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Colorado Last month, water attorney Peter Nichols told the Lower Ark board storm flows have worsened and water quality deteriorated, while stormwater funding decreased from 2009-12. Mark Pifher, SDS permitting manager, responded that there is no correlation between the demise of the stormwater enterprise in 2009 and water quality or volume of flows. He disputed the trends that Nichols found.

Commissioners plan to get more information from Nichols in advance of the Sept. 20 meeting.

At Monday’s meeting, commissioners also looked at the possibility of prepayment on interest from the $50 million Colorado Springs pledged for Fountain Creek flood control.

They also want to review the U.S. Geological Survey study that shows the effectiveness of dams throughout the Fountain Creek watershed.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


The Fountain Creek district approved a Colorado Springs Utilities’ SDS mitigation wetlands project on Friday

August 26, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Utilities’ plan to improve a portion of Fountain Creek as part of mitigation for the Southern Delivery System got unanimous approval Friday from a board formed to improve Fountain Creek. Meeting in Pueblo, the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District approved a new alignment for the creek and wetlands creation about 25 miles north of Pueblo near Pikes Peak International Raceway.

Allison Mosser, a Utilities engineer, explained the project, which was listed as the No. 5 priority in a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study of projects that could improve Fountain Creek. The project also is among those listed in the district’s corridor master plan. The area is one of the worst on the creek in terms of erosion and sedimentation, she said.

The alignment would mean moving some structures and reinforcing other parts of the bank on the property, which is owned by Utilities. A small part of the creek on the Hanna Ranch also is included, but all costs would be paid by Colorado Springs. Some native willows would be planted for bank stabilization and wetlands would be created or improved. Water for initial seeding of the wetlands would use water from rights owned by Colorado Springs at Clear Springs Ranch, Mosser said.

The Bureau of Reclamation would have final authority over approval of the wetlands, because it holds the SDS permit.

Construction would begin in November and take three months, while planting the wetlands would be completed later in the year.

Monitoring the wetlands would continue for three to five years.

More coverage of the Fountain Creek district meeting from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

A district formed to improve Fountain Creek will team with the U.S. Geological Survey to measure water quality changes caused by runoff from recent fires. The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board Friday approved a contract that will measure the impacts of the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire and this year’s Black Forest Fire.

The Black Forest Fire was the most destructive in Colorado history in terms of homes and vehicles destroyed, and could increase the concentration of certain elements.

The total contract will be $18,000, with $6,000 in federal funds, and the other $12,000 contributed by the district and several El Paso County sources.

Samples will be taken as storms occur. “We’ve already missed three or four opportunities,” said Larry Small, executive director of the district. Two sites on Monument Creek and four on Fountain Creek would be sampled. More than 100 constituents will be tested for contaminants like lead and E. coli.

The USGS indicated last month that it has baseline data. “I think this is an important first step. We’ve been talking about impacts since the Waldo Canyon Fire last year,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart.

Melissa Esquibel, a board member from the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, questioned the value of the study, since it would not thoroughly identify sources and problems caused by subsequent storms.

Hart said this study would provide evidence for more detailed studies later.

Jane Rhodes said more studies are needed downstream to see if fires are impacting Pueblo County, because the study sites are in El Paso County.

“We need to find out what’s in the water to protect our population,” added Pueblo City Councilwoman Eva Montoya.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


Colorado Springs Utilities and the Lower Ark District are still scuffling over stormwater and Fountain Creek

August 25, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Utilities disagrees with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District’s interpretation of the city’s stormwater discharge data.

Last month, Lower Ark attorney Peter Nichols said the data showed the volume of discharges had gone up and increased sedimentation and E. coli bacteria in Fountain Creek. Nichols said the data were taken from Colorado Springs state stormwater reports, and his comments were reported in a Chieftain story.

In response to the story, Colorado Springs Utilities looked at the same data and believes there is no correlation of flows or increased contamination due to the dissolution of the stormwater enterprise. Mark Pifher, Southern Delivery System permitting manager for Utilities, made the comments in an Aug. 14 letter to the Lower Ark district. If anything, there is evidence that there is a downward trend of flow, sedimentation and contamination based on reports from a continuous gauge at Security. “Springs Utilities would like to reiterate that it takes stormwater control and water quality within the Fountain Creek basin very seriously,” Pifher wrote in the letter.

He repeated the stance that Colorado Springs officials have taken that a stormwater enterprise or a certain level of funding for stormwater is not required by Pueblo County’s 1041 permit for SDS.

He added that a U.S. Geological Survey study shows there is more benefit to Pueblo from building stormwater retention ponds downstream from Colorado Springs than by building retention ponds within or upstream from Colorado Springs. Pifher said he wants to talk to the district about its conclusions.

More stormwater coverage here and here.


Fountain Creek: Colorado Springs’ city council is looking at resurrecting their stormwater agency

August 23, 2013

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

Across the state, municipalities have created enterprise programs that collect fees for stormwater and drainage projects without first seeking voter approval, which is legal. Colorado Springs did, too, implementing a stormwater enterprise fee in 2005 without asking voters if they were willing to pay for such projects as channels, detention ponds and maintaining pipes and water basins.

The program ended in 2009 after Colorado Springs voters approved Issue 300, which precluded enterprises from giving money to the city’s general fund.

The city won’t do that again, council members said.

Council members and commissioners met Wednesday to discuss stormwater funding. They agreed to “scrub” the city and county budgets to find money to pay for a backlog of stormwater projects estimated to cost more than $700 million.

But operations and maintenance would cost $11 million a year, and they doubted the city and county budgets could come up with that kind of cash.

Elected officials are sure they are headed toward a ballot question, but they don’t know what the question will be or who will be in charge of managing a stormwater program – the city, the county or a regional authority.

The Pikes Peak Regional Stormwater Task Force has presented two funding options – an authority that collects fees or an authority that collects taxes – but the elected officials are not ready to commit to either option.

“All options need to remain on the table and we shouldn’t be jumping to conclusions,” said Councilman Merv Bennett…

Additionally, Pueblo County commissioners are growing impatient over the absence of a plan by El Paso County and Colorado Springs to address stormwater projects, the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper reported earlier this week.

Pueblo County commissioners have argued that Colorado Springs must complete some mitigation projects connected to the Southern Delivery System by 2016 to ensure that flows in Fountain Creek don’t exceed levels of 2009.

However, there is strain between the counties, city and utilities over what the mitigation projects should be and who has ultimate authority under the existing permits…

[Pam Maier] believes residents are ready to tax themselves to pay for the stormwater projects. “This town supports saving residents from suffering from floods and other disasters that occur when you don’t have a stormwater program in place,” she said.

More stormwater coverage here and here.


Fountain Creek: ‘At some point, this board is going to lose its patience’ — Buffie McFadyen

August 20, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo County commissioners are more than happy to throw some money into the hat to keep a Fountain Creek district afloat. At the same time, patience is wearing thin for El Paso County to come to grips with stormwater funding. “At some point, this board is going to lose its patience with the largest city in the state without a stormwater fee,” said Commissioner Liane “Buffie” McFadyen. “I feel like we’re standing knee-deep in water and not going anywhere.”

Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, asked commissioners Monday to consider the district’s plan to patch funding until 2016. The district is nearly out of funds, and is asking county and city governments to come up with $50,000 to meet administrative needs in 2014. Pueblo County’s share would be $10,000.

If Southern Delivery System comes online in 2016, as projected, the district would begin receiving payments from Colorado Springs toward the $50 million negotiated in the Pueblo County 1041 process. That money is earmarked for Fountain Creek flood control projects that protect Pueblo. Interest from the $50 million could be used as soon as next year to begin planning flood-control projects that could benefit Pueblo. But commissioners still are sore that Colorado Springs City Council eliminated its stormwater enterprise in 2009 and has not replaced it.

Colorado Springs City Council is seek­ing a regional solution to meet $900 million in identified projects in El Paso County. Nearly 80 percent of those are in Colorado Springs. Mayor Steve Bach is pursuing a separate course to prioritize projects. While that discussion continues, the Fountain Creek district has put its own plans for a mill levy election — the district can assess up to 5 mills of property tax — on hold just in case there is an El Paso County stormwater fee election in 2014. “The longer (the Fountain Creek district) goes without passing a mill levy, it limits the time you’re able to do projects,” said Commissioner Sal Pace.

Small pointed to a U.S. Geological Survey study that showed 10 retention ponds south of Fountain would provide protection for Pueblo by cutting 46 percent of the peak flow off a 100-year flood. The SDS money would all go toward those types of projects, or a large dam, an option that is unlikely. But commissioners want results sooner. “If we put the district in mothballs for too long, we defeat the statutory mandate,” said Chairman Terry Hart.

More Fountain Creek watershed coverage here and here.


AWRA Colorado Section summer field trip recap: What happens when you dig a 40 foot hole in the ground?

August 18, 2013

 

Coffee and bagels at Denver Water just before heading to Pueblo Dam

Every now and again you sign up for the right water tour. The American Water Resources Colorado Section tour of the Southern Delivery System — which is slated to move Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water to serve several Arkansas Valley communities — turned out great.

First off, we visited the valve house for the project at the base of Pueblo Dam.

Valve house north outlet works Pueblo Dam, August 2013

Folks from Colorado Springs Utilities and USBR detailed much of the design and proposed operational facts about the outlet works. The release to the Arkansas River was engineered for 1120 CFS. One of our hosts smiled as he said, “You can feel a vibration when it’s open.”

Valve test north outlet works Pueblo Dam via MWH Global

We also visited the site where CSU is building a new treatment plant out by the Colorado Springs airport. That’s where the MWH Global project manager explained that they had spent most of the week pumping stormwater out of the 40 foot hole that they dug in the wind blown sand soil at the site. It seems that one of those monsoon storms dumped an inch or so of precipitation in 30 minutes. They had accomplished pouring one section of the slab base for the plant that day.

New CSU water treatment plant site, August 2013

Converstion on the bus between stops ranged from the cultural differences between white europeans and the native american tribes to the announcement earlier in the day from Reclamation of a 24 month operating plan for Lake Powell that would reduce deliveries downriver to Lake Mead.

We heard about Castle Rock’s plans to move to 75% renewable supplies from their director, Mark Marlowe.  They’re hoping to eventually only use their wells  to get through a drought.

We also heard some roadside geology from one of the folks at the Colorado Geological Survey. He explained a bit about the Denver Basin Aquifer System and hydraulic fracturing in the Niobrara.

More Southern Delivery System Coverage here and here.


Fountain Creek: Mayor Bach takes position that Pueblo County’s 1041 permit is non-specific with respect to projects

July 31, 2013

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From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

After Mayor Steve Bach and Council President Keith King sent a June 6 letter to Pueblo County misstating the facts about Colorado Springs Utilities’ permit to build the Southern Delivery System (“Storm brewing,” News, July 17), they corrected the record with a new letter sent July 19.

In the June 6 version, the city said a Stormwater Enterprise projects list was submitted “as part of” the 1041 construction permit process for the water pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir. There was no such project list or dollar figure submitted by the city as part of the 1041 permit itself, records show, meaning the city made no concrete pledges to spend a certain amount of money on stormwater or to do certain projects.

Rather, the permit, issued in April 2009, simply requires the city to ensure that Fountain Creek peak flows that result from new development served by the water pipeline are no greater than prior peak flows.

Although City Attorney Chris Melcher said in a statement to the Indy on July 15 that the June 6 letter “was accurate,” Bach and King wrote a new letter on July 19 “to clarify any potential misunderstanding of our letter of June 6, 2013.”

This letter also said that while there were “conversations” about stormwater projects, “it is clear that the 1041 Permit itself does not require or adopt any specific list of capital projects that must be implemented … [n]or does the 1041 Permit require a specific dollar amount to be allocated.”

The July 19 letter prompted Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace to tell the Pueblo Chieftain he was “furious” and “confused.”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Arkansas River Basin update on Colorado River Basin imports this season #ColoradoRiver #COdrought

July 28, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Imports of water from the Colorado River basin are providing a substantial amount of water to the Arkansas River basin during the drought. Almost 98,000 acre-feet of water have been imported through the three largest transmountain tunnels — Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, Twin Lakes and Homestake — and more than 7,000 acre-feet through smaller tunnels and ditches. In all, the diversions added 105,500 acre-feet to the Arkansas River system this year. That amounts to about 144 cubic feet per second of river flows all day long, every day of the year in the Arkansas River. That’s a lot, considering that the flow near Salida is only around 600 cfs in the middle of summer. It’s been around 100 cfs through Pueblo most of the year, and was languishing at 270 cfs at Avondale last week.

To put it in other terms, it’s nearly four times as much water as Pueblo runs through its treated water system in a year, and about the average amount used by the Catlin Canal. According to preliminary figures from the Colorado Division of Water Resources:

The Fry-Ark Project brought over more than 46,300 acre-feet this year. It provides supplemental water to cities and farms in the Arkansas River basin.

Twin Lakes, mostly owned by Colorado Springs, Pueblo Board of Water Works, Aurora and Pueblo West, brought in 34,000 acre-feet this year.

Homestake, which delivers water to Colorado Springs and Aurora, brought in more than 17,600 acre-feet.

Busk-Ivanhoe, a tunnel owned by Pueblo and Aurora, added 3,792 acre-feet.

Columbine Ditch, near Fremont Pass and owned by Aurora and Climax, added 1,459 acre-feet.

Pueblo’s Wurtz and Ewing Ditches contributed another 2,273 acre-feet.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.


Fountain Creek: Detention ponds can accomplish nearly as much as a flood control dam, according to USGS

July 28, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A series of detention ponds south of Colorado Springs to Pueblo could do nearly as much to reduce the impacts of a severe flood on Fountain Creek as one large dam. That’s the preliminary finding of a three-year study by the U.S. Geological Survey which will be completed later this year. The results were shared last week by David Mau, head of the Pueblo USGS office. “The report does not address water rights, transit loss or funding issues, just the hydrol­ogy and hydraulics,” Mau cautioned the Fountain Creek Watershed district board Friday.

The most effective means of reducing the impacts of a big flood for everyone along the creek would be to construct 44 detention ponds — water holding areas behind 10-foot berms that would not fall under the state’s classification of dams — up and down the creek to the confluence with the Arkansas River. It would include ponds on Monument Creek, the Upper Fountain and major tributaries. Combined, they would retain about 30,350 acre-feet of water and reduce the peak flow of a 100year flood by 59 percent, while reducing sediment by 18 percent.

Ponds would require regular maintenance.

An 85-foot tall dam 10 miles north of the confluence would provide nearly the same protection, reducing peak flows by 56 percent. It would retain far more sediment, reducing it by 62 percent, Mau said. That creates its own problems, however. About 64,000 tons of sediment — 2,500 truckloads of sand — plus trees and other debris would need to be cleared after a 100-year flood. The dam would have a permanent pool of 25,700 acre-feet and capture 25,000 acre-feet of flood water, as modeled in the study. It would also require moving railroad tracks and gas pipelines in Fountain Creek, as well as building a levee to protect Interstate 25.

Ultimately, the reservoir would help Pueblo, but would do little to protect El Paso County communities from flooding. It would cost hundreds of million dollars. Cost estimates have not been done in more than 40 years. Another option, however, would protect Pueblo almost as well, again with little benefit to El Paso County.

It would involve building just 10 detention ponds from Jimmy Camp Creek to Pueblo, and would have the potential of cutting the peak flows by 47 percent. The ponds would also trap less sediment, presumably requiring less maintenance and generating fewer complaints from downstream farmers who rely on flows of sediment. The ponds would have the effect of reducing a 1965-type flood to a less-damaging 1999-type flood. “When we get the $50 million from Colorado Springs, it may be a quicker fix,” said Richard Skorman, a Colorado Springs businessman and former councilman who is a member of the El Paso County stormwater task force. Skorman speculated that it would allow more time for the northern communities to solve internal stormwater problems while giving Pueblo and the Lower Arkansas Valley more peace of mind.

The detention areas could cost up to $1 million each, based on the demonstration project already in place on Pueblo’s North Side. But land acquisition costs could be higher, since the city of Pueblo already owned the land in the pilot project.

ABOUT THE STUDY

A study of dam sites on Fountain Creek by the U.S. Geological Survey won’t be finalized until later this year.

The $570,000 study included $300,000 funding from Colorado Springs as part of Pueblo County’s 1041 permit conditions for the Southern Delivery System.

It looked at 14 scenarios ranging from a few detention ponds on Monument Creek to a big dam on Fountain Creek itself.

Engineers used available records to assess how much the peak flow and sedimentation would be reduced as a result of projects at varying points along Fountain Creek.

Meanwhile the board is holding firm on their authority to review the Southern Delivery System’s potential impacts to Fountain Creek streamflow and water quality. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

The Southern Delivery System should still be subject to review by a district formed to protect Fountain Creek, the district’s board decided Friday. Colorado Springs Utilities plans to cross Fountain Creek with its pipeline under the SDS plan. The Fountain Creek district was given primary land-use authority in the flood plain between Fountain and Pueblo, but last month El Paso County claimed that authority for utility projects.

The board plans to tell El Paso County commissioners that the county’s newly adopted 1041 regulations do not supersede the authority of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District under powers given to it by the state Legislature in 2009. A 1974 law, HB1041, allows counties to regulate projects with statewide impacts. “Why were we established?” board member Jane Rhodes asked in frustration.

“These tools on land use are tools we can use, and powers given to us by statutory right,” Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart said, adding that the nearly broke district cannot afford its own legal counsel to protect that power.

Other Fountain Creek board members agreed and directed Executive Director Larry Small to relay their concerns to El Paso County commissioners at an Aug. 6 meeting. Even Dennis Hisey, an El Paso County commissioner, was taken aback by his board’s stance. “I don’t see how it would take our right away from this board,” he said, adding that although he directed the action, he was not among those who drafted language in the 1041.

Hart said Pueblo County has interpreted its own 1041 regulations as a layer of authority, not an absolute power. “I think our position is that any design still has to be approved by the district,” Small said.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


Fountain Creek: Will Mayor Bach get on board with the pending El Paso County stormwater study?

July 27, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A district formed to fix Fountain Creek is anxious to see how Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach will react to findings of an El Paso County stormwater task force. The question was raised at Friday’s meeting of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District by Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart. “The district has a statutory function to tackle flood control,” Hart said. “We have a major role.”

While most of the participants in the stormwater task force are also represented on the Fountain Creek board, Pueblo County’s interests can be incorporated through the district.

But Hart questioned El Paso County and Colorado Springs representatives about Bach’s willingness to allow the stormwater study and funding recommendations to move forward. Bach balked at the task force findings in January that Colorado Springs has a backlog of $680 million in stormwater projects. He ordered up a separate study to verify those needs.

The task force is wrapping up phase II of its study and will issue another report in October. “Hopefully, when the report comes out, (Bach) will jump in,” said Gabe Ortega, Fountain mayor pro-tem, who chairs the Fountain Creek board. “The majority of the region is on-board and ready to move forward.”

Richard Skorman, a former Colorado Springs councilman who lost to Bach in the 2011 election, said the task force is sorting out the possibilities of how funds to address stormwater could be raised — through a fee based on area or sales tax, for instance — and has not reached a recommendation.

Whichever method of funding is chosen, a public vote is likely to be required, and officials are aiming for a 2014 election date.

“I think the mayor is willing to sit down and look at a regional meeting, but he’s not embracing the task force,” Skorman said.

Why it matters

Pueblo officials have sought protection from floods on Fountain Creek while Colorado Springs worked to expand its water system to accommodate the rapid growth that has occurred in the past four decades by providing redundancy in water supply and to meet the needs of future growth.

Having a stormwater enterprise in place was listed as a given in Colorado Springs Utilities permits for its $940 million Southern Delivery System.

Last week, Bach and City Council President Keith King told Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace that the city is not required to have an enterprise in place or fund stormwater projects at a specific level.

Pace disputed that, but Pueblo County commissioners would have to hold a formal hearing to determine if Colorado Springs has violated the conditions of its 1041 permit for SDS.

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District has asked the Bureau of Reclamation to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement for SDS because stormwater control has deteriorated since 2009, when Colorado Springs City Council abolished the stormwater enterprise, based on its interpretation of a municipal ballot question.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


The Pueblo County D.A. will appeal reversal of Judge Reyes’ order for a CWQCC redo for certification of SDS

July 26, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo District Attorney Jeff Chostner will ask the Colorado Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court ruling on Fountain Creek.

Last week, a three-judge appellate panel overturned District Judge Victor Reyes’ order for the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission to redo its certification of Colorado Springs’ mitigation plan for Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River. The case was originally filed by former District Attorney Bill Thiebaut. “I think there are contradictions within the opinion about what Judge Reyes could and couldn’t do,” Chostner said Tuesday. “They were also wrong on the facts and in saying that he acted in a capricious way.”

One of the major criticisms in last week’s reversal of Reyes’ order was that he chose to adopt Thiebaut’s complaint almost in its entirety. “It’s not unusual for a judge to pick one side over the other,” Chostner said. A petition for a writ of certiorari will be filed with the Supreme Court by the Aug. 29 deadline, Chostner said.

John Barth, a Hygiene water attorney hired by Thiebaut, and Chostner’s staff will work on the appeal.

Reyes issued the order last year for the commission to re-evaluate its certification for Colorado Springs Utilities’ plan for mitigation of impacts from the Southern Delivery System on Fountain Creek and the reach of the Arkansas River from Pueblo Dam to Avondale.

Thiebaut and the Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition opposed the plan, mainly because it relies on an adaptive management program that was spawned in the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement for SDS. The opponents argued for a numerical standard instead.

The state certification is necessary for Army Corps of Engineers’ approval to work in Fountain Creek under the federal Clean Water Act.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


‘They [Colorado Springs] disguise their intentions and do nothing’ — Jay Winner

July 24, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs leaders have told Pueblo County commissioners the city is not required to address specific stormwater projects or spend a set amount under its Southern Delivery System 1041 permit. It’s infuriated Commissioner Sal Pace, because the position apparently contradicts an June 6 letter in which Colorado Springs pledged to address the needs identified in the permitting process for SDS, a pipeline that will deliver water from Pueblo Dam to El Paso County. “I don’t know if I’m more furious or confused,” Pace said. “All one has to do is read the SDS environmental impact statement and see that the stormwater enterprise is mentioned over and over. In the June 6 letter, they indicated they were committed to addressing their stormwater needs. Now, in one simple letter, the city has reversed all that.”

As a state lawmaker, Pace challenged the elimination of the stormwater enterprise and continues to question the decision as a commissioner.

Pueblo County commissioners are seeking a meeting with Colorado Springs officials to discuss SDS compliance, but no date has been set. Violations of the 1041 permit would have to be addressed at a formal compliance hearing, and are not subject to the individual opinions of commissioners. Apparently, Colorado Springs is taking the position that it is only required to pay $50 million to a Fountain Creek improvement district, spend $75 million on bolstering sewer lines and ensure that SDS does not increase flows under the county permit for its $940 million water supply project. “It is clear the 1041 permit itself does not require or adopt any specific list of capital projects that must be implemented to address Fountain Creek peak flows, run-off volumes or other flood hazards,” Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach and Council President Keith King wrote in a letter to Pace last week. ‘’Nor does the 1041 permit require a specific dollar amount to be allocated toward stormwater projects.”

Comments in March 2012 by City Attorney Chris Melcher that Colorado Springs should be spending at least $13 million annually on stormwater touched off a flurry of stormwater activity three years after council abolished the city’s stormwater enterprise.

An El Paso County task force identified $900 million in capital projects, $686 million in Colorado Springs. Bach launched an independent review of Colorado Springs’ share.

During that time, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District asked the Bureau of Reclamation to reopen its environmental analysis of SDS because it originally assumed the stormwater enterprise was in effect. Last week, the district released figures showing the city’s expenditures on stormwater dwindled to nearly nothing in 2012.

Colorado Springs is spending $46 million on stormwater projects this year, with more than half going toward dealing with impacts from the Waldo Canyon Fire.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The burden of meeting water quality standards will increasingly fall on farmers in the Lower Arkansas Valley as a result of inaction on stormwater in Colorado Springs. “It’s outrageous that they do not want to take the responsibility for stormwater,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “Pueblo and the Lower Ark district have tried to cooperate, but it seems that every­ The federal Food Modernization and Safety Act passed last year puts increased responsibility for water quality on farmers who irrigate and market raw food, Winner said. Lower Ark district studies show that water quality on Fountain Creek has continued to decline since Colorado Springs abolished its stormwater enterprise.

Winner was reacting to news reported in The Chieftain Tuesday that Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach and Council President Keith King say their city is not obligated to do any specific projects or fund stormwater at any certain levels under Pueblo County permits for the Southern Delivery System.

Bach and King made that clear in a letter to Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace last week.

That’s a slap in the face to Winner, who received assurances stormwater would be funded at Colorado Springs City Council meetings in 2005, when the stormwater enterprise was formed, and in 2009, when it was dissolved. But a recent analysis by the Lower Ark district shows funding dropped to almost nothing in 2012. It has increased to $46 million this year, largely because of concerns about funding levels for SDS permits raised by Colorado Springs attorney Chris Melcher last year and the after-effects of the Waldo Canyon Fire. “The enterprise was supposed to fund the backlog of projects,” Winner said. That backlog now is estimated to be $686 million, a figure Bach questions. “They disguise their intentions and do nothing.”

Winner said the stormwater enterprise was listed as reasonably foreseeable in the 2009 environmental impact statement for SDS by the Bureau of Reclamation. “It has to be in place before one drop of water moves through SDS,” Winner said.

Conversely, Reclamation says a stormwater enterprise in Colorado Springs or El Paso County is not reasonably foreseeable in its current evaluation of the Arkansas Valley Conduit. But Reclamation has not reopened the EIS for SDS, despite a Lower Ark request last year.

Winner also questions whether the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District is weighted too heavily in favor of El Paso County. He is critical of the district for focusing on impacts of Waldo Canyon near Colorado Springs rather than downstream impacts. The district was formed in part to satisfy how $50 million in payments from Colorado Springs to improve Fountain Creek would be handled under Pueblo County’s 1041 permit for SDS. The district played a role in the current discussion over stormwater in El Paso County, backing a study that showed Colorado Springs’ stormwater funding lagged far behind other Front Range communities.

However, Colorado Springs leadership has at times ignored the district. For six months in 2011 no representative from Colorado Springs attended Fountain Creek meetings, as reported in the Sept. 24, 2011, Pueblo Chieftain. “I don’t recall that Mayor Bach ever has attended a Fountain Creek board meeting,” Winner added.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Appeals court reverses Pueblo District Judge Victor Reyes’ order regarding the SDS’s 401 permit

July 19, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A Colorado appeals court Thursday reversed Pueblo District Judge Victor Reyes’ order for the state to re-evaluate its assessment of the impacts of the Southern Delivery System on Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River.

Reyes issued an order on April 12, 2012, for the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission to reopen hearings on a 2011 Water Quality Act Section 401 permit for SDS. The permit is necessary for construction of the SDS pipeline across Fountain Creek because it is tied to Army Corps of Engineers permits.

Colorado Springs Utilities is building the $940 million pipeline, which will take water from Pueblo Dam to El Paso County.

The state decision was challenged by former Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut and the Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition.

They argued that a numerical water quality standard was needed rather than relying on an adaptive management program that the Bureau of Reclamation established as part of an environmental impact statement leading up to approval of SDS.

They also challenged the way public notices were made and said the state failed to look at the possibility of further degradation of Fountain Creek from population growth in Colorado Springs.

The appeals court opinion said the Water Quality Control Commission did not violate applicable water quality standards, reversing Reyes’ decision.

Judge Stephanie Dunn wrote the opinion, with Judges Nancy Lichtenstein and James Casebolt concurring.

The opinion criticizes Reyes for adopting most of the wording in his decision from the complaint filed by Thiebaut and the coalition, saying it is not the court’s role to reverse a state agency’s decision without more rigorous investigation.

“Where, as here, a district court adopts an order drafted by counsel, we scrutinize the order more critically,” Dunn wrote.

The opinion also said Reyes erred by citing Colorado Springs Utilities’ land condemnation cases in Pueblo West when writing his order. Reyes “made credibility determinations based on information outside the administrative record.”

From the Colorado Springs Business Journal (Amy Gillentine):

The Colorado Court of Appeals reversed a Pueblo County judge’s ruling against a state water quality certification for the SDS project, which will bring water from the Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs, the biggest water project in decades for Colorado Springs Utilities. The multi-million project is well underway, with miles of pipeline already finished and construction started on water treatment plants The appeals court ruled that the state Water Quality Control Commission was correct in approving the SDS water quality certification, according to a press release from Colorado Springs Utilities.

The decision reverses Pueblo County District Court Judge Victor Reyes’ April 2012 ruling against the Water Quality Control Commissions’ unanimous decision approving the 401 water quality certification.

“We are pleased that the Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled in support of the 401 water quality certification for SDS,” said John Fredell, SDS program director. “We always believed that the state Water Quality Control Division did a thorough and complete evaluation of SDS and correctly decided that it would meet State water quality standards. We are pleased that the Court of Appeals has recognized that. It is unfortunate that this matter had to be resolved in the courts, which is a costly process and one that goes against our approach of collaborating with other local governments and stakeholders.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Even before he took office, District Attorney Jeff Chostner realized he would have a decision to make on a case he inherited from Bill Thiebaut. Pueblo District Judge Victor Reyes ruled in Thiebaut’s favor in April 2012 on a challenge to a Colorado Water Quality Control Commission decision to certify Colorado Springs Utilities’ Southern Delivery System, a pipeline to deliver water from Pueblo Dam to El Paso County.

On Thursday, an appeals court overturned Reyes’ order, saying opponents failed to prove their case.

It’s unknown if there will be an appeal to the Supreme Court. “Jeff Chostner is not in his office today, so I have not even been able to talk to my client. I haven’t had time to carefully read the decision,” said John Barth, a Hygiene attorney. “We’re still reviewing the decision and evaluating our options.”

Those options include a petition for rehearing or calling for a writ of certiorari, which would ask to overturn the appeal decision.

Before he took office, Chostner told The Chieftain that an appeal is not automatic. “If it goes against Colorado Springs, I would certainly defend a successful case,” Chostner said in December. “If it goes against us, I would have to read the language of the opinion before making a decision.”

Colorado Springs Utilities officials were happy with the appeals court decision. “We are pleased that the Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled in support of the 401 water quality certification for SDS,” said John Fredell, SDS Program Director. “We always believed that the state Water Quality Control Division did a thorough and complete evaluation of SDS and correctly decided that it would meet state water quality standards.”

From the Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

Colorado Springs Utilities has done all the necessary work to ensure that its Southern Delivery System does not wreck water quality in Fountain Creek, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday. The ruling is a big win for the utilities’ $1 billion dollar pipeline project and creates “a clean path” for the project to continue, said Keith Riley, deputy program director for SDS. “It means we go forward as planned without adding additional mitigation,” Riley said.

From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

“Pleased” probably doesn’t even get close to the feeling of those at Colorado Springs Utilities, given a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling upholding the state’s approval of a certification for the Southern Delivery Pipeline water project. Nevertheless, that’s the word used in a news release by John Fredell, SDS program director, regarding the water quality permit issue. The ruling means a hurdle that has been cited by Pueblo County in correspondence with the Interior Department as a roadblock for SDS has been removed.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


It turns out the Colorado Springs did need a stormwater enterprise after all, Fountain Creek water quality has declined

July 18, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Stormwater flows, sedimentation and E. coli counts on Fountain Creek increased after Colorado Springs eliminated its stormwater enterprise in 2009. That’s not idle speculation, but an analysis provided by Colorado Springs to the Colorado Water Quality Control Division.

Preliminary results of the analysis were given to the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board Wednesday by Peter Nichols, the district’s water attorney. “At the same time, staffing and budgets have decreased, despite what they say their plans are,” Nichols told the board. “Funding has declined and bottomed out in 2012.”

Water quality data from Colorado Springs Utilities required by the state for the city’s stormwater permit from 2008-12 was used in the study by Nichols, a former director of the state water quality agency.

Flows on Fountain Creek increased from an average of 149 cubic feet per second in 2009 to 419 cfs in 2012 at Security, despite drier overall conditions in 2011-12. Similar increases were seen elsewhere in Colorado Springs.

At the same time, E. coli levels and sediment loads increased. Staffing for stormwater by Colorado Springs dropped from 47 in 2007, the first year of the stormwater enterprise to just 9 by 2012. Spending declined from $16.7 million in 2007 to just $1.8 million in 2012.

From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

Mayor Steve Bach seems hellbent on forcing Colorado Springs Utilities to fund the city’s stormwater needs, and he’s made yet another maneuver that could harm the city’s $1 billion Southern Delivery System pipeline project from Pueblo Reservoir.

Bach and City Council President Keith King, who is against a tax increase for stormwater, wrote a letter last month to Pueblo County Commission Chairman Sal Pace saying that Utilities had promised years ago to spend $17.6 million annually on stormwater mitigation to secure a construction permit from Pueblo County. Written as a follow-up to a meeting Bach had with Pueblo County officials May 3, it states the city has made “excellent progress” on the stormwater issue.

The city this week confirmed that the letter’s $17.6 million claim is accurate. But according to records and sources, it’s not — which would represent the second time in less than a year that Bach’s administration has used inaccurate statements while trying to foist stormwater funding onto Utilities…

This time around, on June 6, Bach and King sent Pace a letter saying the city submitted a five-year funding and project-priority plan “as part of” the 1041 process. “Colorado Springs and CSU submitted a five year funding and project priority plan for our stormwater capital projects during the review of the 1041 permit,” the letter states. “This plan contemplated spending approximately $88 million over the court of five years, for an average of $17.6 million per year. We have attached a copy of that funding summary for your review.”

But the attached list of Stormwater Enterprise projects is dated January 2010, which is eight months after the 1041 permit was issued. In addition, no such list shows up in the filings made as part of the 1041 process. The permit itself mentions the Stormwater Enterprise, but fails to state dollar figures or outline projects tied to SDS. Instead, the permit says the city “shall maintain stormwater controls and other regulations intended to ensure that Fountain Creek peak flows resulting from new development served by the SDS project within the Fountain Creek basin are no greater than existing conditions.” (Emphasis added.) In other words, as SDS project manager John Fredell says in a statement: “The SDS permit requirements related to stormwater are intended to mitigate the actual impacts of the project, not pre-existing conditions.”[...]

Neither Bach nor King consulted Utilities before writing the June 6 letter, according to Utilities spokeswoman Janet Rummel. King says the mayor’s office asked him to sign it, but he’s now “working with” Utilities officials “about an explanation of that particular letter, to make sure everything is copacetic on this.”

In response to a request for a comment from Bach, Melcher, the city attorney, writes the following via email: “The City confirmed that the June 6, 2013 letter to Pueblo County was accurate, and that early and later drafts of the attachment to that letter (a draft list of proposed Stormwater Projects, totaling $88 million) were communicated to Pueblo County by City and Stormwater Enterprise staff during the 1041 Permit process. The Mayor and City Council will continue to coordinate efforts to address Stormwater, and to communicate those efforts to our neighbors to the south in Pueblo County.”

It’s worth mentioning that Council, not Bach, has authority over Utilities.

Meanwhile Colorado Springs is hosting a public meeting about Fountain Creek Flooding in the wake of the Waldo Canyon Fire. Here’s a report from J. Adrian Stanley writing for the Colorado Springs Independent. Click through for the information for the meeting. Here’s an excerpt:

If you live along Fountain Creek, you’re probably worried about flash flooding. And you should be. The mud, water and debris that came roaring out of Williams Canyon on July 1 and claimed three homes, could have just as well come racing down Fountain Creek. And, in that scenario, who knows how many structures it would have claimed.

Where and when a flash flood happens is a matter of chance — it all depends on which area a storm decides to dump on, how much it rains, and how quickly the rain comes. Thus, the city of Colorado Springs is offering a meeting to help Fountain Creek residents prepare for the worst.

From the Colorado Springs Independent (J. Adrian Stanley):

For months now, the Stormwater Task Force has managed to be two things: (1) a group of interested citizens and government workers striving to fully identify the region’s stormwater problems and identify a funding solution, and (2) an enduring focal point for angst between El Paso County and Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach.

At a July 15 meeting of the Task Force, El Paso County Commissioner Amy Lathen said Springs City Attorney Chris Melcher had met with her weeks ago and stated unequivocally that the city would not work with the task force. But at the same meeting, task force member John Cassiani said he’d been talking with the executive department of the city and hoped that a meeting would be possible toward the end of the year.

Lathen said she hoped the meeting would happen, though she doubts it will. “The message that you just gave us is very different than the one we were given just a few weeks ago,” she told Cassiani.

Given that the area has as much as $906 million in stormwater capital needs, plus an estimated $11.5 million in annual stormwater maintenance needs, the ongoing political squabble is no small problem. The mayor believes that the city should solve its stormwater problems independently, and that the scope of the problems is exaggerated. He’s hired Englewood-based firm CH2M HILL to identify the city’s most pressing needs. It could report back as early as October.

Meanwhile, the Stormwater Task Force has been moving forward without the help of the city or its staff. At the July 15 meeting, leaders said they hoped to ask voters to fund a stormwater remedy in the fall 2014 election. What voters would be asked to approve is not yet clear — the task force has not decided whether to pursue a tax, or create a special enterprise that would charge a fee.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


AWRA Colorado Section: AWRA Summer field trip of the Southern Delivery System — Friday, August 16

July 16, 2013

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Click here to go to the AWRA Colorado Section website for the pitch and to register.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Fountain Creek: ‘What’s the point of having this district?’ — Jay Winner

July 4, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Fountain Creek district board is weighted 5-4 in favor of El Paso County, its attorney also represents El Paso County, its manager is a former Colorado Springs City Council member and now El Paso County has claimed some of the land use authority granted to the district by the state Legislature.

“El Paso County has been disingenuous to the other intergovernmental agreement partners on Fountain Creek,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “It seems to me we are outnumbered. They’ve taken control of 80 percent of the watershed this district was supposed to address. What’s the point of having this district?”

The district was formed in 2009 after nearly three years of meetings of a Vision Task Force sparked by flooding in 1999, and a flurry of lawsuits over spills of raw sewage by Colorado Springs Utilities into Fountain Creek.

But Colorado Springs yanked the rug out from under Pueblo County and the Lower Ark district when it abolished its stormwater enterprise in late 2009, and Winner has become distrustful of anything happening north of the county line.

“What’s going to go away next?” Winner asked.

At a meeting last week, there were a few sharp exchanges between Winner, District Executive Director Larry Small and attorney Cole Emmons, who is on loan from El Paso County.

After the meeting, Winner said the Fountain Creek district board had no notice that El Paso County was claiming some of its authority.

Dennis Hisey, chairman of the El Paso County commission, said Emmons notified Small of the land use changes. Aside from that, he said the district’s board, made up of elected representatives and citizens from both counties, did not discuss the new land-use rules until a retreat last month, after the changes had occurred.

But Hisey believes the board is working together in good faith.

“For Jay to say that we’ve wrested power, that’s a stretch,” Hisey said. “I’m not so sure the district wasn’t asserting more authority than it actually has.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

New regulations in El Paso County erode the authority of a district that was formed in 2009 to protect Fountain Creek.

“I believe El Paso County has wrested authority from Pueblo County and the Lower Ark district,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “Does it put the Fountain Creek district in a position where it has to go through the 1041 process if it wants to do a project?”

El Paso County has adopted regulations under 1974’s HB1041 that gives counties authority over projects of statewide impact. The regulations were used in 2009 by Pueblo County to obtain conditions for the construction of Southern Delivery System.

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District was created by the state Legislature in 2009, and given land-use authority over the Fountain Creek flood plain from Fountain to Pueblo.

But in the new 1041 regulations, El Paso County is claiming control over utility projects, including SDS, that are built anywhere in the county, including the Fountain Creek flood plain.

“It changes the district’s authority on the aspect location of utilities,” said Dennis Hisey, chairman of the El Paso County commissioners, who also sits on the Fountain Creek board.

In the past, the Fountain Creek district has made decisions on everything from gas plants to gravel pits to motorcycle parks. It still would have authority on any nonutility projects.

But there could be a gray area on the district’s own projects.

“I’m not sure this discussion is over yet,” Hisey said, adding that he still is in discussion with attorneys for El Paso County. “Speaking as a Fountain Creek board member who has been there from the beginning, it doesn’t seem quite right.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Commissioner Terry Hart doesn’t think Pueblo County is getting steamrolled by El Paso County in its dealings on Fountain Creek.

In particular, he believes there are sufficient safeguards in the legislation that set up the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

“There is a requirement for supermajority (seven of nine members) approval that hasn’t been tested,” said Hart, who represents Pueblo County on the Fountain Creek board. “My No. 1 mission is to make sure Pueblo County is protected.”

That said, he doesn’t think it should come down to a test of wills. Pueblo can gain more by cooperation rather than continued fighting, he said.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A new foundation is vying for the attention of the district formed to fix Fountain Creek.

“There’s a tremendous opportunity for people to come back to the creek,” said Gary Barber, representing the Fountain Creek Watershed Greenway Fund.

The foundation would be the second devoted to helping the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District get private support to implement Fountain Creek improvement projects. So far it has raised about $15,000, Barber said.

The Fountain Creek Foundation, headed by David Struthers of Denver, has been active in community education through activities and video production; identifying projects that would benefit Pueblo’s East Side; and in promoting a wildlife viewing project near Pinon that is included in the Fountain Creek corridor master plan.

The Fountain Creek Watershed Greenway Fund is taking a different approach, connecting the Colorado Springs business community with youth.

“We’re still about the whole watershed,” Barber said. “But we’ve decided it’s time to get people on our end of the watershed engaged.”

Barber, a Colorado Springs realtor and water consultant, chairs the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. He was the first interim executive director of the Fountain Creek district and helped write the legislation that formed the district.

Part of the concept for the district is patterned after the Denver Urban Drainage and Flood Control District’s relationship to the Greenway Foundation, which have worked hand-in-hand to improve the South Platte River and Cherry Creek since the 1965 flood.

After hearing Barber’s presentation Friday, some members of the Fountain Creek board recalled the Fountain Creek Foundation, which has not been in contact with the district recently.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities has spent $58 million in Pueblo County so far

July 1, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

About $58 million of the $337.8 million spent on Southern Delivery System so far has gone to contractors in Pueblo County, according to the latest accounting of the project. Now estimated to cost about $940 million, SDS would build a 50-mile raw water pipeline from Pueblo Dam to El Paso County. There are three pump stations along the way and a new water treatment plant in northeast Colorado Springs. The project benefits Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West.

Allison Moser, a Colorado Springs Utilities engineer, gave the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District an update on SDS Friday.

So far, 38 of the 50 miles of underground pipeline — most of it 66 inches in diameter — have been placed. The North Outlet Works at Pueblo Dam has been completed and construction work on the Juniper Pump Station below the dam will begin this fall. The treatment plant in Colorado Springs is under construction, and contracts have been awarded for all three pump stations.

Most of the money for the project has been spent within Colorado, with $165 million in El Paso County, $800,000 in Fremont County and $48 million in the rest of the state. Another $66 million has been spent outside the state, mostly for specialized equipment not manufactured in Colorado, Moser said.

The Fountain Creek district has authority of some parts of SDS that cross the flood plain in El Paso County. That will change, however, because of new 1041 regulation in El Paso County that give county commissioners authority over all utility projects under a 1974 law. The major portion of Fountain Creek affected by SDS is the underground crossing of the pipeline several miles south of Fountain, which would be about 40 feet below the surface. That portion has been redesigned to avoid any disturbance of wetlands, Moser said.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District votes to ask members to pony up dough for solvency

June 29, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A district formed to protect Fountain Creek is asking its members to contribute $50,000 in 2014 to keep itself afloat. The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District voted Friday to seek contributions from El Paso and Pueblo County, as well as incorporated cities in the two counties in order to stay solvent. The district will run out of money at the end of this year and has no prospect of reliable revenue until 2017, when Southern Delivery System is scheduled to go online. “We’re trying to figure out ways and perspectives about how we can hold the district together for the next few years,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart. “We have to have a short-term plan for the ability to fund projects.”

The Fountain Creek board also voted to ask Pueblo County and Colorado Springs Utilities to pay off an estimated $2.2 million in index funds early in another attempt at funding. The index funds are a form of interest that accrues on the $50 million Colorado Springs pledged to pay the district under Pueblo County 1041 conditions for the Southern Delivery System. Under the March 2009 1041 agreement, Colorado Springs would begin accruing the interest on any payments not made during the first 42 months.

Mark Pifher, a Utilities executive, said Colorado Springs and Pueblo County are still negotiating the formula, and timing for payments and the district’s request could unravel some of those talks.

“Nowhere do we say we’ll take the money right now,” said Fountain Mayor Pro-Tem Gabe Ortega, who chairs the Fountain Creek board.

Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, criticized the plan, saying the district had failed to take full advantage of grant management fees and other potential sources of revenue. He said the Lower Ark has helped fund the district in the past and offered payments from its 2009 court settlement with Aurora that have been underutilized Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek district, dismissed Winner’s comments, saying those options were explored but not adequate to fund the routine operations of the district.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A district formed to fix Fountain Creek likely will wait several years before asking voters for property tax revenues. That’s partly because of an effort in El Paso County to address stormwater that may lead to a 2014 election to fund a solution. Other reasons include a lingering weak economy and the need to show voters accomplishments in the form of successful projects.

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District last week evaluated its long-term strategy following a retreat earlier in the month. “It’s likely the stormwater task force will ask for money in 2014,” said Larry Small, executive director, in his review of the retreat. “We have to look at what’s needed until 2017.” That’s the year the district will begin receiving payments totaling $50 million over a five-year period from Colorado Springs Utilities under its 2009 agreement on 1041 permit conditions with Pueblo County.

The district’s interim strategy is to pass the hat among its member governments to collect $50,000 for administration next year. It also wants an agreement between Pueblo County and Utilities to allow it to collect an estimated $2.2 million in index payments — essentially interest on the $50 million — early from Colorado Springs.

Under the 2009 state law that formed the Fountain Creek District, it can collect up to 5 mills in property tax if voters approve it in Pueblo and El Paso counties. Each mill would generate about $8 million annually in the two counties.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


Colorado Springs briefs the Lower Ark about their stormwater program in 2013

June 25, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs is moving on multiple fronts to address how Fountain Creek will be protected from damaging floods and how water quality will be improved. Some feel more could have been done all along, however.

Mark Pifher, an executive with Colorado Springs Utilities, updated the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District last week on the efforts to address stormwater needs. A regional stormwater task force will finish its second phase this fall. The group determined there are $900 million in stormwater needs in El Paso County, with $680 million of that in Colorado Springs. The next phase will determine how much funding is available and what strategies are needed to secure funds for the remainder. “We have been busy in the last few months, looking at Waldo Canyon and now the Black Forest Fire,” Pifher said. “We will be looking at a longterm solution in Phase 2.”

The task force is looking at different structures for funding, including property tax assessments and a regional authority of a fifth utility — on top of gas, electric, water and wastewater — to fund stormwater projects.

There are other efforts:

Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach also has hired a consultant to review and prioritize stormwater needs.

El Paso County has adopted its own 1041 regulations that address stormwater control in new development.

Colorado Springs is nearing completion of a drainage criteria manual that regulates new construction.

“Whatever happens, there will be a need for an election, even if there is a fee,” Pifher said.

The Lower Ark District has been critical of Colorado Springs for eliminating its stormwater enterprise in 2009. The enterprise would have provided a steady stream of funding toward stormwater projects that would protect Fountain Creek. “I applaud your efforts, but it’s two or three years too long,” said Reeves Brown, a Pueblo County board member.

More stormwater coverage here and here.


Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority is seeking funding for a cooperative plan that leads to efficiencies

June 18, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

El Paso County water providers are banding together to study how their systems could work together more efficiently in the future. A $242,000 study would include Colorado Springs Utilities and the Southern Delivery System as possible delivery sources of water for other communities, as well as ways to integrate the assets of other water systems. The Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority is seeking a grant of $75,000 from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, while kicking $88,500 in cash and $78,500 in in-kind contributions. Colorado Springs and El Paso County are included in the in-kind contributions.

Those groups have been aggressively pursuing water development for more than 30 years to meet rapid growth. Some past projects have been undertaken collectively.

The Arkansas Basin Roundtable approved the state grant this week, because it would help fill the greatest part of the municipal gap identified in the Statewide Water Supply Initiative. “I think this addresses the gap in a way that goes beyond individual projects such as SDS,” said Betty Konarski, who represents El Paso County on the roundtable.

Roundtable member Jeris Danielson, a former state engineer, asked if the study would include new sources of supply as well.

Sean Chambers, manager of the Cherokee Metropolitan District, said the main purpose of the study would be to look at how current supplies could be better managed for the mutual benefit of other communities.

The gap in El Paso County is projected to be 22,000 acre-feet annually — enough water for about 60,000 homes — by 2050. Of that, 13,000 acre-feet will be to replace nonrenewable groundwater and 9,000 acre-feet will be needed for growth.

The gap is the vast majority of the shortfall identified by SWSI.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


Waldo Canyon burn scar: Colorado Springs Utilities repurposes two drinking water reservoirs to flood mitigation

May 12, 2013

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From KRDO.com (Rachael Plath)

The burnt ground left in the wake of the Waldo Canyon Fire has increased the likelihood of flash flooding and mudslides. This threat directly impacted two Colorado Springs reservoirs: the Nichols and the Northfield reservoirs.

“When we have rainstorms, it really churns everything up; brings out that vegetation and debris down into the streams and tributaries. It just makes it a little more challenging to treat,” said Andy Funchess, field operations manager for water systems with Colorado Springs Utilities.

According to Funchess, the area surrounding the two reservoirs was badly burned. The runoff and erosion around the reservoirs was affecting the water’s quality.

Funchess said CSU has the ability to treat the water, but the cost would outweigh the benefit. For this reason, CSU drained the two reservoirs. The empty basins will now help with flood mitigation, as in their empty state, the reservoirs will catch debris and water before it rushes down the mountainside.

From the Colorado Springs Independent (J. Adrian Stanley):

For months now, local leaders have breathlessly awaited [Dave] Rosgen’s Watershed Assessment of River Stability and Sediment Supply (WARSSS) study, a detailed explanation of how water will move off the Waldo Canyon burn scar and, more importantly, what we can do to stop it.

But as the study’s finally presented, it becomes clear that Rosgen can’t save us from the powers of nature.

His plan — thousands of pages long — represents a to-do list that likely will cost tens of millions. It’s currently largely unfunded, and will take years to complete regardless. And then there’s the biggest dose of reality: Even if the region does everything recommended, a five- or 10-year storm will still cause mass destruction and may claim many lives. “The increase in flow is going to be with us,” Rosgen tells the crowd. “It’s not going to change a lot. Flood peaks are a reality for the future.”

What the WARSSS can do is ease our suffering. The restoration work it recommends can hold back well over a million tons of mud in a normal monsoon season, ensuring that a two-year rain event doesn’t take out a neighborhood. Plus, it will help the burn scar heal more quickly.

More Colorado Spring Utilities coverage here.


El Paso County Commissioners approve a regional stormwater approach for mitigation and management

May 12, 2013

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From the Colorado Springs Independent (J. Adrian Stanley):

On Tuesday, the soon-to-be-overhauled City Council approved a resolution to support a regional approach to stormwater management on a 6-2 vote. In the past, such a move may have been considered little more than ceremonial — most experts have long agreed that stormwater is best approached regionally. But Mayor Steve Bach has lately turned the issue into a political football…

Many believe the mayor is afraid that a regional approach will suggest a new tax to solve the area’s dangerous backlog of needed infrastructure projects, estimated to exceed $900 million. The mayor signed a pledge saying he would oppose any new tax, no matter how vital. But Bach’s long reach may not be able to control this process. With assistance from El Paso County, a Regional Stormwater Steering Committee, made up of dozens of citizen volunteers, is already studying how best to approach the problem.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs stormwater plans fail to address Pueblo county 1041 permit requirements

May 3, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs may be spending nearly $46 million on stormwater projects this year, but Pueblo County commissioners are trying to determine if the money is being spent in the right places. “It’s fine that they’re spending the money, but it really doesn’t answer our question about whether the list of pre-2009 projects is being addressed,” said Commissioner Sal Pace.

Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach and Council President Keith King Thursday responded to questions raised earlier in the week by commissioners about whether stormwater spending is fulfilling the 1041 permit conditions for Southern Delivery System designed to mitigate flooding on Fountain Creek caused by increased growth from SDS. “Considering these tough economic times and the daunting task of ongoing fire recovery efforts, we are pleased that staff was able to find a way to more than triple the initial projections of funding for stormwater improvements in 2013,” Bach and King wrote in a letter to commissioners and Pueblo City Council.

On Monday, Pueblo County commissioners expressed concern about the progress of a stormwater task force in El Paso County. The task force was formed last year and determined there are more than $900 million in stormwater needs that should be addressed on a regional basis.

Bach, however, is seeking an independent accounting of the $686 million in projects that represent Colorado Springs’ share of the burden. He has advocated for Colorado Springs taking care of its own obligations.

Pueblo County commissioners want to know which of the projects on the list are among the $500 million in identified needs in 2009, when Colorado Springs indicated a stormwater enterprise was in place as part of conditions for the SDS permit. Colorado Springs City Council abolished the stormwater enterprise on a split vote following a 2009 election. Last year, city attorney Chris Melcher offered an opinion that Colorado Springs should be spending at least $13 million annually on stormwater to fulfill its SDS obligations.

“It seems like there is a lot of additional money being spent to address new flooding threats because of the Waldo Canyon Fire,” Pace said Thursday. “Colorado Springs has to meet that need, but that doesn’t replace what they should already be addressing.”

More coverage from the Chieftain:

Colorado Springs this week provided an accounting of $45.7 million in planned expenditures this year to address stormwater concerns.

  • $14.2 million for new grade structures, stabilization projects, operation, maintenance and salaries.
  • $681,000 for Waldo Canyon Fire mitigation projects.
  • $12.8 million for Colorado Springs Utilities projects, including stabilization of lines crossing creeks, and repair of damage from washouts related to the Waldo Canyon Fire.
  • $8.8 million for Camp and Douglas Creek restoration.
  • $1.4 million for Colorado Springs Airport drainage projects.
  • $350,000 for Pikes Peak Highway drainage.
  • $7.5 million for remedial work on the Waldo Canyon Fire emergency watershed projects.
  • More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    El Paso County Watershed Assessment of River Stability and Sediment Supply meeting May 2

    May 1, 2013

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    From the Colorado Springs Indpendent (J. Adrian Stanley):

    Ever since the Waldo Canyon Fire charred our hillsides, Colorado Springs and the small communities that dot our foothills have been at extremely high risk for flooding. The WARSSS is an escape route — a detailed plan on how best to control the water, mud and debris.

    The WARSSS will tell us how water moves and how to trap it. It will show us where to build the detention pond that will prevent the Pleasant Valley neighborhood from drowning, and how to control a wild rush of water out of Williams Canyon that is pointed at the center of Manitou Springs.

    Thus, it is with excitement that I tell you the study will be presented to the El Paso County Commissioners on Thursday, May 2. Woo-hoo, indeed.

    Waldo Canyon Fire WARSSS to be Presented May 2

    Colorado Springs, CO, Thursday, April 25, 2013 — The Watershed Assessment of River Stability and Sediment Supply (WARSSS) Study will be presented by Dr. David L. Rosgen of Wildland Hydrology at 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 2, 2013, in the Hearing Room at the Pikes Peak Regional Development Center located at 2880 International Circle, Colorado Springs.

    WARSSS is a technical procedure for water quality scientists use in evaluating streams and rivers impaired by excess sediment. It will predict how water, sediment and debris will move along and off the Waldo Canyon Fire burn scar. Based on its findings, it will assist in providing a list of prioritized mitigation projects.

    More stormwater coverage here and here.


    SDS: Pueblo County is looking at advance payments from Colorado Springs for Fountain Creek projects

    May 1, 2013

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Pueblo County commissioners want to explore the possibility of jumpstarting projects on Fountain Creek with advance payment of money promised by Colorado Springs Utilities as a condition for Southern Delivery System.

    “We need clarity on the acceptability of using the $50 million, using it in advance,” Commissioner Terry Hart said.

    Under its 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System, a $1 billion pipeline that takes water from Pueblo Dam to El Paso County, Colorado Springs promised to pay $50 million for flood control projects south of the city that benefit Pueblo County.

    The money is scheduled to begin arriving in five installments to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District in 2016, after SDS goes online.

    But $600,000 already has been paid to the district — $300,000 for a flood control study and $300,000 that was used to complete a master corridor study and as its share to provide interim funding to the district.

    Last week, Hart, who sits on the Fountain Creek board, was approached with the idea of asking for another $100,000 from the Colorado Springs fund to continue interim funding until the district settles on a strategy for securing a funding source. Commissioner Sal Pace asked attorneys if the county could ask for the entire $50 million to be paid sooner.

    “If we bring it in sooner, it could be used to leverage other money,” Pace said.

    Commissioner Liane “Buffie” McFadyen said flooding on Fountain Creek is likely to be more intense after the Waldo Canyon Fire and supported using the money sooner, rather than later.

    Ray Petros, the county’s water attorney, was uncertain if advance payment is possible. Colorado Springs asked for the five-year schedule for mainly financial reasons, and the payment is just one of a series of conditions that must be met over time. “We’d have to be careful from our side that we weren’t acknowledging that SDS wouldn’t be suspended for some other reason,” Petros said.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    County staff and Colorado Springs Utilities are discussing the adequacy of revegetation requirements on the pipeline route of Southern Delivery System through Pueblo West.

    The pipeline is buried, but cuts a 100-foot-wide swath through 7 miles of Pueblo West on its way from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs.

    As part of Pueblo County 1041 conditions for SDS, Colorado Springs is bonded for two years while revegetation is completed. Although droughtresistant species are being used, seeds must be irrigated to sprout. That raised some questions Monday in a work session on SDS issues.

    “We’re in the throes of a drought, and my question is whether this is a good time to do revegetation,” Commissioner Terry Hart said. “If we’re going to be irrigating it for two years and suddenly pull off the water, what happens?”

    Attorney Gary Raso said experts from Colorado Springs Utilities and the county’s consultant, Warren Keammerer, are meeting on the issue, but the results likely won’t be known at the end of two years. The county is concerned that too many “weedy” species will take hold, rather than beneficial grasses.

    “It became clear to me that at the end of two years, the best you could conclude is that it was going in the right direction,” Raso said. “The experts don’t like being tied to (the two-year limit).”

    Hart questioned what recourse the county would have if problems surfaced five years after revegetation was deemed complete. The county has in the past altered the 1041 conditions with Colorado Springs on $2.2 million for dredging Fountain Creek through Pueblo and accepting a $15 million payment for restoration of Pueblo West roads damaged during construction.

    There also are unresolved revegetation issues with the portion of the pipeline that crosses Walker Ranches north of Pueblo West.

    Commissioners agreed that they need to further discuss issues with Keammerer.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    SDS: ‘My central issue is that we need a concrete plan to identify stormwater needs’ –Terry Hart

    April 30, 2013

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Pueblo County commissioners want Colorado Springs to explain its stormwater plan as soon as possible, and hinted Monday that a hearing on the 1041 permit for Southern Delivery System could be necessary if answers aren’t forthcoming. “We as a community are very concerned that when the stormwater enterprise disappeared, the conditions in the 1041 permit disappeared,” Commission Chairman Terry Hart said. “The community has been patient.”

    Colorado Springs City Council in 2009 eliminated its stormwater enterprise and $13 million annual funding for identified needs. Since then, a new majority of the council has been elected in 2011 and 2013, and Steve Bach was elected mayor under a new governance system. A regional stormwater task force has formed, but apparently it does not have Bach’s support and it won’t begin making recommendations on funding nearly $1 billion in projects until July at the earliest.

    At a workshop Monday, commissioners reviewed several parts of the 1041 permit, including revegetation of the pipeline scar through Pueblo West and Walker Ranches and the potential for acceleration of $50 million in payments for improving Fountain Creek. But the big issue was stormwater. The commissioners want an accounting of which projects were on the Colorado Springs stormwater list, what was addressed when the fee was in place and what remains to be done. “My central issue is that we need a concrete plan to identify stormwater needs and how they are going to pay for it,” Hart said.

    Colorado Springs Utilities has asked Pueblo County to wait until July to hold an explanatory meeting, in order to allow stormwater task force committees to complete their work.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Colorado Springs Utilities plans to spend $6 million on efforts to mitigate the Waldo Canyon burn scar

    April 10, 2013

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    From the USDA Blog (Mike Stearly):

    The U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Springs (Colo.) Utilities recently announced a new 5-year partnership to help restore the areas burned by the devastating Waldo Canyon Fire that tore through part of the west side of the city in 2012.

    Through the partnership, Colorado Springs Utilities will invest approximately $6 million in support of the watershed health goals and activities over the next five to 10 years. The Forest Service will complete on-the-ground project planning and treatment in areas that complement Colorado Springs Utilities investments.

    During an event at the Flying W Ranch – a 60-year-old tourist attraction destroyed in the fire – Harris Sherman, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, met with Congressman Doug Lamborn, U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennett, and representatives from the Coalition for the Upper South Platte, El Paso County Commissioners and the city of Colorado Springs.

    “This partnership will ensure improved water quality for the residents of Colorado Springs,” Sherman said. “Collaborating on watershed restoration will have a long-term positive impact on forest and watershed health and allows us to accomplish more on-the-ground projects.”

    The innovative partnership between Colorado Springs Utilities and the Forest Service is preserving and protecting crucial watersheds that provide water to Colorado’s second largest city. The signing of the agreement establishes work to reduce wildfire risk, restore burned areas, minimize erosion impacts and coordinates pre-suppression wildland fire efforts.

    “This agreement … solidifies a critical partnership with the Forest Service, a partnership that has benefited our water supply and community for decades,” said Gary Bostrom, chief water services officer for Colorado Springs Utilities. “Our ongoing relationship with the Forest Service will help us channel customer rate dollars in the most efficient way possible to protect our most vital resource and the forest that surrounds it.”

    The human-caused Waldo Canyon fire started June 23, 2012, and left a scar of more than 18,000 acres, cost millions of dollars to fight, caused the evacuation of 32,000 people, destroyed 346 homes and killed two people. The fire has since been labeled the largest, most expensive and destructive fire in Colorado’s history.

    More Colorado Springs Utilities coverage here and here.


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