SDS construction reaches Colorado Springs ahead of schedule and under budget — The Colorado Springs Gazette

July 24, 2014
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Emily Donovan):

Huge pipes being tunneled underground near the intersection of Powers Boulevard and Constitution Avenue is the first big sign after almost two decades of work to increase the water available to the Colorado Springs area by a third…

Pipeline construction at the busy intersection is ahead of schedule, expected to be complete in September rather than November, said SDS spokesperson Janet Rummel…

A $125 million facility that will be able to process 50 million gallons of water a day, the treatment plant on the east side of Colorado Springs is halfway constructed, also ahead of schedule. Construction began in March 2013 and will be finished in fall of 2015. The plant is expected to put out drinking water in April 2016…

SDS construction is estimated to cost $847 million – $147 million less than the original estimation in 2009.

Rummel said money was saved by asking engineers to make designs that would be cost-effective without damaging drinking water quality, like keeping every part of the water treatment plant under the same roof instead of separate buildings.

This means SDS will cause less of a utilities rate increase for CSU customers than originally expected in 2009…

“This is the future of Colorado Springs,” said Jay Hardison, CSU water treatment plant project manager.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Pueblo Board of Water Works board meeting recap

July 16, 2014
Colorado Springs circa 1910 via GhostDepot.com

Colorado Springs circa 1910 via GhostDepot.com

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs will be taking a more regional approach and looking at risk factors as it develops its 50-year water plan. That’s a shift from the 1996 water resources plan that focused solely on supply and led to Southern Delivery System, said Brett Gracely, water resources manager for Colorado Springs Utilities.

“We are seriously evaluating the timing of future SDS components,” Gracely told the Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday.

Utilities is updating the plan that will determine its actions in water development after SDS comes online in 2016. The plan will look at watershed health, fire vulnerability and climate change, as well as social values and tradeoffs. It also will incorporate traditional factors like water supply, demand and quality.

“Because of changes in technology and software, we can run thousands of scenarios through our models,” Gracely said.

Another key difference is that Colorado Springs Utilities is not planning on building another $1 billion pipeline as a result of this plan, but more carefully evaluating its options after SDS.

“It’s a completely blank page,” Gracely said. “But it will have no effect on SDS phase I.”

The first phase is a 50-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs, served by three pump stations and a treatment plant. The second phase of SDS includes the construction of two reservoirs on Williams Creek southeast of Colorado Springs.

Water board members Tom Autobee and Kevin McCarthy questioned Gracely on what conservation measures Colorado Springs envisions in order to cut demand. Reduced water use after the 2002 drought has been complemented by a tiered rate structure that makes expanded water use more costly, he explained. Colorado Springs also has dropped minimum landscaping requirements that at one time would have encouraged greater water use.

“What is your telescope telling you about West Slope imports?” McCarthy asked.

“Warmer weather is what we’re expecting,” Gracely replied. “Half the (climate) models are showing it will be wetter, and half drier, but they all say it will be warmer.”

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.


Colorado Springs: What do the next 50 years look like after SDS is completed?

July 1, 2014
Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

With Southern Delivery System nearing completion, Colorado Springs is going to work on a plan to provide water for the next 50 years.

“There is a lot of uncertainty in the West when it comes to water,” Leon Basdekas, project manager for Colorado Springs Utilities integrated water planning, told the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board Friday.

Utilities’ last water plan was in 1996 and focused almost entirely on supply. It provided options about how to develop water rights that Colorado Springs obtained in the Arkansas Valley during the 1980s. Among the options were direct reuse, reservoirs and pipelines. The water plan eventually led to SDS, a $940 million pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs that will be completed by 2016. Those types of options still will be considered.

“Everything is on the table,” Basdekas said.

But the new plan also will look at demand, water quality, infrastructure, energy, regulation, legal issues and public opinion, he added. The goal is to develop a sustainable future supply that also respects social values, Basdekas said.

Among the biggest challenge is managing risk during climate change. Severe drought in 2012-13 was only one indication of how future water supplies could be affected.

At the same time, Colorado Springs is looking for as much public input as possible as it begins looking at the next 50 years.

“We need public involvement, so we just don’t go into a dark room and come out with a plan,” he said.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage <a href="


SDS: There is no Plan B — Colorado Springs Business Journal

June 29, 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 Colorado Springs Business Journal (John Hazlehurst):

CSU’s ongoing billion-dollar bet is the Southern Delivery System. Scheduled to go online in 2016, SDS will convey water from Pueblo Reservoir via a 66-inch-diameter underground pipeline to Colorado Springs. It will expand the city’s raw water delivery capacity by an eventual 55 million gallons per day (MGD), a nearly 50-percent increase in system capacity…

“What we’re hoping for is a record snowpack,” CSU Chief Financial Officer Bill Cherrier said in late March, “followed by a hot, dry summer.”

Cherrier said it with a smile, but he had neatly summarized CSU’s dilemma. Water in the reservoirs must both be replenished and sold. The sell side of the equation is driven by fixed costs, including system maintenance and replacement, energy costs and continuing capital investment. But buyers don’t care about CSU’s problems; they prefer to water their lawns with free water from the skies.

Per-capita water use has dropped sharply in the past 20 years, leading to corresponding reductions in the city’s long-term consumption estimates.

“The Base (i.e. revenue) forecast is for an estimated service area population (city, suburban, Green Mountain Falls, military) of about 608,552 and about 106,000 AF/yr for demand,” wrote CSU spokesperson Janet Rummel in an email. “The ‘hot and dry’ scenario uses the same service area population and estimates about 120,000 AF/yr demand. This particular ‘hot and dry’ scenario equates to an 80 percent confidence interval and adds about 13 percent to annual demands.”

That’s a precipitous drop from the high-side estimate of the 1996 water resources plan, which forecast a population in 2040 as high as 900,000 and water demand of 168,150 acre-feet. The base forecast, at 106,000 acre-feet annually, is only 1,800 acre-feet more than the community used in 2000, 40 years previously.

Does that mean CSU’s water managers dropped $841 million into a new water delivery system that we may not need until 2016? Does this prove that the project, originally conceived to furnish water for the Banning-Lewis Ranch development, is now entirely unnecessary?

Perhaps not…

“SDS is not a short-term solution,” Rummel said in a 2010 email. “The time to build a major water project is not when you have run short of water … [we need] to better prepare our community for drought, climate change and water supply uncertainty on the Colorado River.”

Many factors entered into the decision to build SDS. In 1996, there was no discussion of system redundancy, of having an additional water pipeline that could serve the city in case one of the existing conduits needed emergency repair. But 18 years later, the pipelines are that much more vulnerable to accident or malfunction.

In 1996, population growth and per capita water use were expected to continue indefinitely at historic levels. But they didn’t. Commercial and industrial use declined, and price-sensitive residents used less water. Indoor use declined as well as outdoor, thanks to restricted-flow shower heads and low-flush toilets.

SDS stayed on track. In the eyes of the water survivalists who conceived and created the project, the city’s rights on the Arkansas River had to be developed. They saw long, hot summers in the city and dry winters in the mountains. Opponents could make any arguments they liked, but these five words trumped them all.

Use it or lose it.

Undeveloped water rights are like $100 bills blowing down the street — someone will grab them and use them for their own benefit…

“This will be our last pipeline,” said CSU water resources manager Gary Bostrom. “We will never be able to develop a new water delivery system. When SDS is finished, that’s it.”

Bostrom’s peers in Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Diego and Los Angeles have reason to envy him. Colorado Springs has won the water wars. We’ve bought ourselves decades of time. Whether we save or squander this liquid bounty is up to us.

In 2040, the city may have 30,000 to 50,000 acre-feet a year of unneeded delivery capacity. That cushion will allow for decades of population growth and for the introduction of sophisticated irrigation techniques that will preserve our green city and minimize water use.

In years to come, members of the Colorado Springs City Council will decide how to preserve the city’s future. Will they heed Bostrom’s warning and encourage radical conservation? Will new developments be required to xeriscape, and preserve trees with drip irrigation devices?

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Southern Delivery System update: $359 million spent so far, >44 miles of pipe in the ground

June 23, 2014
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Tunneling under Fountain Creek is proving more difficult than expected for the Southern Delivery System. Some pipeline near Pueblo Dam has been laid in solid rock. And the temporary irrigation system to provide water for native vegetation over the pipeline scar through Pueblo County contains 50 miles of pipe (main line and laterals) and 15,000 sprinkler heads. Those were some of the highlights of a progress report by Mark Pifher, SDS permit manager, to the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Wednesday.

“The tunneling project was more difficult than we thought,” Pifher said. The work was being done just over the El Paso County line from the west side of Interstate 25, with a tunnel-boring machine 85 feet below ground.

Because of the difficulty, a second borer from the east side one mile away is being used.

“They had better meet in the middle,” Pifher joked.

More than 44 miles of the 50 miles of 66-inchdiameter pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs has been installed; a treatment plant and three pump stations are under construction; and a Fountain Creek improvement project has nearly been completed, he said. All of the pipeline in Pueblo County has been installed, and revegetation has begun on 323 acres that were disturbed in Pueblo West and on Walker Ranches. The irrigation system is so large that it has to run in round-the-clock cycles seven days a week, Pifher noted.

“It’s apparently the largest sprinkler system in the state,” he said.

Another 484 acres has been planted with native seed in El Paso County.

As of March, $359 million has been spent on SDS, with $209 million going to El Paso County firms, $65 million to Pueblo County companies, $900,000 to Fremont County contractors and $84 million to businesses in other parts of Colorado.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here.


Pueblo West Utilities Board members and staff are trying to make sense of SDS MOU with Colorado Springs

June 18, 2014
Pueblo West

Pueblo West

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo West is pondering whether it even needs to turn on Southern Delivery System early after the metro district board waded through the process that led up to a controversial memorandum of understanding that would allow that to happen. The MOU apparently represents years of complex negotiations between Colorado Springs attorneys.

Three board members, Chairman Lew Quigley, Mark Carmel and Judy Leonard, voted on May 27 to talk about the MOU in open session, rather than behind closed doors.

But at Tuesday’s metro board meeting — devoted solely to water issues — board members and staff wrangled over what the document means and how it should be drafted.

The MOU could pave the way for Pueblo West to begin using a new 36-inch pipeline from the north outlet on Pueblo Dam ahead of schedule. It’s needed because Pueblo West is reaching the limits of its current delivery line, and to provide redundancy if anything should happen to its sole supply source, said Manager Jack Johnston. Johnston said the MOU was merely conceptual, and the argued that details of it needed to be explained in executive session.

“This is really our bus to drive,” Johnston said.

Carmel countered that a more open discussion in public among Pueblo West, Colorado Springs needed.

Pueblo County commissioners and attorneys objected to details of the agreement which required Pueblo West to obtain approval of 1041 permit conditions, saying Colorado Springs is attempting to bully the metro district.

“This was presented to me as an ultimatum. … I suspect this new board will go back to the drawing board to give you a new direction,” Carmel said. He wanted to delay action until a full board could act — board member Jerry Martin was not at Tuesday’s meeting.

Quigley objected to discussing the agreement in executive said that a meeting behind closed doors was needed to explain how the agreement related to several other lawsuits in order to protect Pueblo West’s legal position.

Board member Barbara Bernard favored discussing such an agreement in executive session if necessary.

“Yes, I want to know how we got to this point,” she said. “I need as much counsel as we can have.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Utilities was trying to make sure the clock wouldn’t start ticking if Pueblo West got water early under a controversial agreement.

That’s how Mark Pifher, permit manager for Southern Delivery System, explained the situation Wednesday to the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District during his update on SDS progress.

The agreement was to have been discussed in executive session on May 27 by the Pueblo West Metropolitan District, but newly elected board member Mark Carmel objected to talking about it behind closed doors, claiming the agreement would hold Pueblo West “hostage.”

The issue escalated when Pueblo County commissioners and attorneys claimed Colorado Springs was using bully tactics to pressure Pueblo West into gaining county approval of 1041 permit conditions from the county.

“Pueblo West wanted delivery of the water as soon as possible,” Pifher said. “The concern we had was that if the water is delivered to Pueblo West, will all the other conditions be expedited?”

Among those conditions is the beginning of $50 million payments to the Fountain Creek District and other Fountain Creek issues. Utilities and the Lower Ark have been in negotiations over Fountain Creek issues for the past nine years.

“What we’re asking is that Pueblo West go to the commissioners so those other conditions will not be triggered,” Pifher said.

The agreement also contained a provision that would require Pueblo West to stop using the new pipeline if Colorado Springs did not meet SDS conditions.

On Tuesday, the Pueblo West board discussed the agreement with Manager Jack Johnston and attorney Harley Gifford.

Carmel and board President Lew Quigley wanted an open discussion of the agreement. Johnston said it had been negotiated over several years by staff and attorneys. Gifford said it is tied to other legal issues that need to be discussed in executive session.

The 36-inch water line from the north outlet is nearly complete and would provide redundancy for the existing 24-inch line Pueblo West has connected to the south outlet. The new line would provide up to 18 million gallons per day in addition to the 12-million-gallon capacity of the existing line.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


“This proposed MOU is a heavy-handed tactic by [Colorado Springs Utilities]” — Ray Petros

June 3, 2014
Pueblo West

Pueblo West

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo County officials believe Colorado Springs Utilities is trying to pressure Pueblo West for help in meeting 1041 permit requirements for the Southern Delivery System. After obtaining a copy of a draft memorandum of understanding that was to be considered by the Pueblo West metro board in executive session last month, two commissioners and the county’s water attorney say it’s the same type of coercion Utilities tried to exert on the county earlier.

“It’s bully tactics. I think it’s terrible and totally inappropriate,” said Terry Hart, chairman of the county commissioners. “This is the second time in a couple of months where Utilities is trying to negotiate approval of 1041 conditions. In this case, it pits Pueblo West against Pueblo County, when there’s no good reason to do it.”

Commissioner Sal Pace agreed: “Whether Pueblo West has access to its own water has nothing to do with conditions on Fountain Creek.”

Water attorney Ray Petros was equally blunt: “This proposed MOU is a heavy-handed tactic by Utilities to withhold water deliveries to Pueblo West as a lever against the county in the event the county had to consid­er suspending the SDS permit.”

Pueblo West has not approved the MOU, and Jack Johnston, the metro district manager, portrayed it as a working document “at the staff and attorney level.”

However, newly elected Pueblo West board member Mark Carmel objected at his first official meeting to considering the deal in executive session. He was backed by Chairman Lew Quigley and board member Judy Leonard.

Johnston said a document for public consideration would be ready for discussion in open session, probably in mid-June.

But the document provided to The Chieftain by Carmel, and shared with the county, asks Pueblo West to get the county to sign off on several conditions of the 1041 permit before Pueblo West can turn on SDS.

Among other things, the agreement instructs Pueblo West to obtain written confirmation from Pueblo County that four politically charged conditions of the county’s 1041 permit have been met or “will not be triggered . . . by use of SDS facilities.”

Those conditions include the payment of $50 million to a special district for Fountain Creek flood control, the Pueblo Arkansas River flow program, the adaptive management scenario for Fountain Creek and Colorado Springs stormwater management. Each of those has led to complicated political negotiations or even court cases for Colorado Springs. Pueblo West has been in court with Pueblo County over the flow program.

Pueblo County ran into the same tactics when it asked Utilities to release interest money from the $50 million early to fund dam studies on Fountain Creek, Hart and Pace noted.

“In any event, holding Pueblo West hostage casts Springs’ Utilities as a bully,” Petros said. “It’s certainly counterproductive to a cooperative approach for addressing environmental mitigation of the SDS Project.”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Fountain Creek dam study funding source up in the air

May 27, 2014
Fountain Creek Watershed

Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Faced with silence so far from Colorado Springs City Council, the Fountain Creek district will seek another direction on funding an evaluation of flood-control strategies. The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board Friday voted to seek $135,000 in state funds to launch the $205,000 study.

Other funds would be: $30,000 from Colorado Springs Utilities and its partners in the Southern Delivery System; $25,000 in district money redirected from another grant; and $15,000 in in-kind engineering services from Utilities.

The board wants to look at whether it makes more sense to build a large dam on Fountain Creek or several detention ponds. The money being sought would be sufficient to both identify and evaluate sites along Fountain Creek where structures could be built.

“This gets us started, but one of the drawbacks is timing,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart, a Fountain Creek board member.

The commissioners last month approved a resolution to use interest money from Colorado Springs’ upcoming $50 million payment to the district under Pueblo County’s 1041 agreement on SDS.

The commissioners sent a letter to Colorado Springs Council President Keith King, who has not brought up the issue with other council members.

“It’s council’s decision,” Hart said.

The state money could take longer to arrive because the $135,000 is being sought through the Water Supply Reserve Account. The application would be heard by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable as soon as June, then forwarded to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for consideration in September. After that, it could take several months to get a contract in place, meaning nothing will happen before the end of the year.

“I think Utilities is saying, ‘Try it this way,’ ” Hart said. “But we’ve lost all of 2014.”

More Fountain Creek coverage here.


The Southern Delivery System has been a long time coming

May 12, 2014
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

Here’s part one of an in-depth look at the Southern Delivery System from John Hazlehurst writing for the Colorado Springs Business Journal. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Contending that the denial [of Homestake II] had been arbitrary and capricious, the two cities [Aurora and Colorado Springs] appealed the decision to the courts. In a comprehensive description of the city’s water system and possible future sources of supply given to City Council in 1991, CSU managers said that “extensive litigation is expected to continue.”

Denied by the Colorado Court of Appeals and the Colorado Supreme Court, the cities appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

City officials were stunned. They couldn’t believe that a coalition of Western Slope “enviros” and ski towns had prevented them from developing water to which the city had an undisputed right. They had believed the Environmental Protection Agency’s 1990 decision to scuttle Denver’s proposed Two Forks Dam near Deckers on the South Platte River was an outlier, not a sign of things to come…

Slow to recognize that mountain communities now had the power to kill their water development plans, Utilities officials looked at another alternative. Instead of taking water directly from the wilderness area, the city proposed to build a dam on the mainstem of the Arkansas at Elephant Rock, a few miles upstream of Buena Vista.

A grassroots rebellion against the project was soon evident, as hand-lettered signs appeared along U.S. Highway 24, which parallels the Arkansas. The signs carried a simple message: “Don’t Let Colorado Springs Dam this River!”

It soon became clear that Chaffee County commissioners would not issue a construction permit for any such project, dooming it before the first planning documents were created…

If trans-mountain diversions or dams on the Arkansas were no longer feasible, that left a single alternative for developing the city’s water rights. CSU would have to let its water flow down to Pueblo Reservoir, construct a diversion structure on the dam, and pump it uphill to Colorado Springs.

It would be, water managers believed, the easiest project to build and permit.

“It was just a pipeline,” said CSU water resources manager Gary Bostrom, who has worked 35 years for Utilities. “What could go wrong?”[...]

“We didn’t really understand the importance of partnering with and involving the public in decision-making,” said [Gary Bostrom], “until the Southern Water Project.”[...]

The plan for the Southern Delivery System was presented to City Council in 1992. Among the material submitted to councilmembers was a comprehensive description of the city’s existing water system. Water managers made sure Council was aware of the importance of the task before them.

“The massive scope of this project,” CSU staff noted, “requires a very long lead time to allow for complexities of numerous permitting processes, land acquisition, litigation, design, financing and construction.”

Of all the variables, CSU managers and elected officials gave the least weight to those that may have been the most significant…

“We weren’t worried about hydrology,” said Bostrom. “The years between 1980 and 2000 were some of the wettest years on record. The water was there for the taking. Shortages on the Colorado weren’t part of the discussion.

“We knew about the Colorado River Water Compact of 1922 (which allocated Colorado River water between Mexico and the upper and lower basin states), but it wasn’t something we worried about.”

Then as now, 70 percent of the city’s water supply came from the Colorado River. SDS would tap the city’s rights on the Arkansas, diversifying the portfolio.

“We have to plan for growth,” said Bostrom. “That’s what history tells us. We know that it will be expensive, but the cost of not building a system well in advance of need would be much greater. People complained about the cost of the Blue River (trans-mountain diversion) project in the 1950s, but we wouldn’t have a city without it — we wouldn’t have the Air Force Academy.”

But even as the project moved slowly forward, the comfortable assumptions of a wet, prosperous future began to unravel.

“Exactly 15 years ago today (April 29, 1999),” said Bostrom, “we were in the middle of a flood — remember? We didn’t know it, but that was the day the drought began.”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Snowpack/runoff news: Colorado Springs Utilities will not impose watering restrictions this season #COdrought

May 1, 2014

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendozq):

A snowy winter in the Upper Colorado Basin is the city’s water savior. It’s the snowpack that fills Utilities’ reservoirs, which in recent years had dipped to below normal levels and had officials nervous about having enough water in storage for emergencies.

Once this year’s snow melts, Utilities expects it will have 2.3 years of water in storage – or about 73 percent of capacity. That’s a pretty good place to be, said Abby Ortega, Utilities water planner.

“We are expecting to fully recover storage levels to normal,” Ortega said.

Still, Utilities will roll out a $600,000 conservation campaign encouraging residents to water their lawns three days a week or less.


The Southern Delivery System is on time and under budget, according to @CSUtilities

April 29, 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 Colorado Springs Business Journal (Marija B. Vader):

Wayne Vanderschuere, general manager of the Colorado Springs Utilities water services division, said the Southern Delivery System will be completed on schedule and $150 million under the original budgeted amount.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Fountain Creek: The Fountain Creek District hopes to have a flood mitigation design in hand soon

April 26, 2014
Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A district formed to fix Fountain Creek is moving ahead with a road map to build flood control dams between Fountain and Pueblo. The entire process could take 3-12 years to complete, with the type of structures chosen and the availability of money the determining factors.

On Friday, Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, broke down the process into bite-sized pieces for the board, which was formed five years ago by the state Legislature to resolve Fountain Creek differences between Pueblo and El Paso counties.

Phase 1 would be to compare three alternatives that were modeled in a U.S. Geo­logical Survey study completed this year. It would cost $60,000 and take up to a year to complete. Those include a large dam, a series of about 10 smaller dams or several midsize dams that would capture about the same amount of water.

“Maybe building fewer and bigger dams may be better than 10 small dams,” Small said.

Small said other alternatives in the USGS study either provided only local protection on other parts of Fountain Creek, or no protection at all to Pueblo in the event of a large flood. The study would corroborate past studies and identify — but not solve — issues with each of the alternatives. It would also use the USGS study to provide a visualization of floods of varying intensity, Small said.

The next phase would then compare the options by looking at engineering, easements, permits, costbenefit analysis and other factors.

“We want to be in a position that will allow us to begin building when the money becomes available,” Small said.

That money will start coming when Colorado Springs begins payment of the bulk of $50 million that it agreed to pay the district under Pueblo County’s 1041 permit for Southern Delivery System. The funding for the study would come from prepayment of nearly $300,000 in interest on the $50 million under the terms of the 1041 permit.

Pueblo County Commissioners and Colorado Springs still are negotiating the details of the prepayment, said Commission Chairman Terry Hart.

“What we’re trying to do is pave the way for the money, so the project can move forward,” Hart said.

More Fountain Creek watershed coverage here and here.


Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities has spent $26.6 M on land-related expenses

April 19, 2014
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs has spent $26.6 million to acquire land for its $984 million Southern Delivery System. Most of the money was spent in El Paso County, although properties in Pueblo West and on Walker Ranches were purchased either permanently or for temporary easements.

Pipeline easements totaled $961,681 for 388 acres in Pueblo County, compared with $2.5 million for 486 acres in El Paso County.

Another $1 million was paid to buy homes in Pueblo West.

The big money was paid for other features of the project in El Paso County, a total of about $22 million.

“It would be misleading to simply do the math on the values above and conclude that more was paid for land in El Paso County than Pueblo County,” said Janet Rummel, spokesman for Colorado Springs Utilities, in an e-mail responding to a request from The Pueblo Chieftain.

Permanent easement prices ranged from 50-90 percent of fee value, while temporary easements are valued at 10 percent per year, varying from one to four years.

“The fee value of land depends primarily on location, but also is subject to size, shape, development entitlement and improvements, if any,” Rummel explained.

“Within the raw water pipeline alignments for SDS, fee values for easements and facilities ranged from $1,389 per acre to almost $20,000 per acre,” Rummel said. “Pueblo West properties were generally valued in the range between $10,900 to $13,000 per acre.”

At the high end of that scale were 6 homes on about 10 acres in Pueblo West purchased for $1.044 million.

But even below that scale were 103 acres, two-thirds in permanent easements, on Walker Ranches, which could be purchased for $82,900, or about $804 per acre. Utilities also paid Walker $600,000 to relocate cattle during construction, as required by Pueblo County’s 1041 permit.

Gary Walker will contest the amount of the easement payment in court this November, one of four cases still in dispute.

Walker also has raised complaints, most recently during a county public hearing, about erosion along the pipeline route. The bulk of the money, however, has gone for the treatment plant, pump station and reservoir sites in El Paso County.

Utilities paid $259,519 for 43 acres for the Bradley Pump Station; $2.4 million for 124 acres at the treatment plant and $19.3 million for a future reservoir site on Upper Williams Creek.

At the reservoir site, T-Cross Ranches, owned by the Norris family, received $9,500 per acre for 791 acres ($7.5 million), while the state land board received $10,500 per acre for 1,128 acres ($11.8 million).

SDS is a pipeline project that will deliver up to 96 million gallons of water daily from Lake Pueblo to Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West.

The figures do not include money Utilities paid to purchase homes in Jimmy Camp Creek at a reservoir site that later was abandoned.


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

fountaincreekwatershed.jpg

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.


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