Fountain Creek “Creek Week” September 27 thru October 5

September 8, 2014

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Plans are being made to clean up litter throughout the Fountain Creek watershed during Creek Week, Sept. 27-Oct. 5 in Pueblo and El Paso counties.

The event is sponsored by the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, which was formed five years ago to improve the drainage.

At its last meeting, the Fountain Creek board learned more than 20 groups already have committed time, materials or money to the effort.

Trash that makes its way into Fountain Creek can degrade water quality, harm wildlife, create safety hazards and clog irrigation or drainage structures.

Businesses, churches, schools, nonprofits, neighborhood associations, youth groups, service clubs and individuals are encouraged to form work groups, pick a work date within the time frame, pick a location and pick it up.

Information about Creek Week and how to register a crew is available at http://fountain-crk.org.

More Fountain Creek coverage here.


Fountain Creek flood mitigation dam(s) and the issue of prior appropriation

September 4, 2014
Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A discussion about water rights, the first step to looking at building dams or detention ponds on Fountain Creek, is moving ahead. The project is being coordinated by the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, and would fit in with a larger study looking at flood control on Fountain Creek.

It’s a hot-button issue with farmers in the Lower Arkansas Valley, who see the capture of flood flows on Fountain Creek as a threat to junior water rights. At an Arkansas Basin Roundtable meeting last month, the need for a water rights study killed a proposal to look at the feasibility of building dams.

A $58,000 program by the Fountain Creek district will look at just the water rights issue. It will be funded by Colorado Springs Utilities, Pueblo West, Security, Fountain, the Pueblo Board of Water Works and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, with in-kind support from Utilities and the Fountain Creek district. The process will bring together downstream water rights holders and state officials in a series of meetings to identify how water rights could be harmed by projects meant to provide public safety and what action could be taken to mitigate the damage.

All of the questions about how water moves throughout the Arkansas River basin would not be answered, but some ways to provide water through releases from Lake Pueblo or by timing releases from Fountain Creek structures would be explored, said Mark Shea, Fountain Creek point man for Utilities.

“There could be other beneficial uses, providing waterfowl or fish habitat, and allowing flood flows to be exchanged up Fountain Creek,” Shea said.

Melissa Esquibel, Pueblo board member of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, said the Lower Ark also should be involved in the project.

“There is a lot mistrust and misinformation, so we need to take the right path,” she said. “There are legitimate concerns that arise from past issues.”

Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart agreed.

“If we are perceived as an 800-pound gorilla, we’ll get nowhere,” Hart said. “We’re talking about people and their livelihoods.”

Pueblo City Councilwoman Eva Montoya, who chairs the Fountain Creek board, said the dialogue is an opportunity to balance public safety and the need to protect water rights.

“We need to rebuild trust,” she said.

More prior appropriation coverage here.


“It’s a well thought out proposal that we’ve been working on for two years” — Dennis Hisey #COpolitics

September 3, 2014
Fountain Creek Watershed

Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

El Paso County voters will decide in November whether to implement a fee to provide $39 million annually for stormwater protection by creating the Pikes Peaks Regional Drainage Authority. Commissioners Tuesday finalized an intergovernmental agreement and placed the issue on the ballot on a 5-0 vote.

“It’s a well thought out proposal that we’ve been working on for two years,” said Dennis Hisey, chairman of the commissioners. “It’s a vehicle that will put our stormwater protection on track with other communities throughout the state.”

The 11-member authority would include the mayor of Colorado Springs, five members appointed by Colorado Springs City Council, two members appointed by commissioners and one each from Fountain, Manitou Springs and Green Mountain Falls.

The authority would collect up to $39 million in 2016 through fees collected on property within the Fountain Creek watershed. The fee would be determined based on impervious surface area, density, land use and ownership, according to the IGA. Over the next 20 years, the money would go toward a $700 million list of projects, and after that, a smaller fee would pay for maintenance. The average homeowner would pay about $7.70 per month.

Mayor Steve Bach opposes the fee, which he calls a tax, and has suggested alternative ways to finance improvements Colorado Spring needs and is obligated to make under its permits for the Southern Delivery System. Colorado Springs City Council supported the IGA by a 7-2 vote.

“We’re expecting a robust campaign,” Hisey said. “Any time you ask for money, there’s a need to educate the voters and make your case.”

More stormwater coverage here.


Dam dilemma looms for planners — The Pueblo Chieftain

September 1, 2014
Fountain Creek Watershed

Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Building dams to slow down the pace of floodwater could save lives and reduce the destruction of property. But, it might also deprive a farmer of irrigation water or even deliver more to neighbors with more senior water rights. It could cause conflicts with neighboring states that have entered into compacts with Colorado.

Dams, detention ponds and even debris basins meant to trap sediment while allowing water to flow freely in areas ravaged by wildfire could be subject to state water rights administration. That’s the opinion of officials at the Colorado Division of Water Resources.

“I think we’ve clearly articulated how we view the law and there are not any gaps from an administrative standpoint,” said State Engineer Dick Wolfe.

But districts formed to control stormwater are discussing whether state water law could block efforts to stem the worst effects of floods. And they’re looking at changing the law to give more weight to arguments to detain water.

The Urban Drainage and Flood Control District, which was formed to assist Denver metro area counties with stormwater protection, has asked the state to clarify its position on whether flood control would have priority in any instance. Meanwhile, the Fountain Creek Flood Control and Greenway District is preparing a series of conversations with water rights holders on the same topic.

“If we as a district are going to be successful, we have to become involved,” Executive Director Larry Small told the Fountain Creek board at its August meeting.

The state’s position is that detaining water in a regional project could injure junior water rights.

In 2011, the state explained that its policy of allowing 72-hour detention of floodwater applies only to single-site projects, rather than regional detention ponds, said Kevin Rein, deputy state engineer. The rule has often been invoked in flood control discussions and usually misinterpreted. The Fountain Creek district found out about this firsthand when it constructed a demonstration project along Fountain Creek in Pueblo behind the North Side Walmart. It was required to file a substitute water supply plan.

But there are no hard and fast rules governing flood detention.

“We do not find a legal basis to make an absolute finding that diversions of stormwater into regional water quality detention are allowable, nor do we find a basis to determine that such diversions would cause no injury,” Rein concluded in his letter to the Urban Drainage district.

Even the debris basins built by Colorado Springs after the Waldo Canyon Fire have the potential to run afoul of state water law, said Steve Witte, Division 2 engineer. “If they encounter groundwater, they have to be augmented with a SWSP,” Witte said. “If it’s in a normally dry stream, it may qualify as an erosion control dam, which if it holds less than 2 acre-feet of water is statutorily exempt.”

So far, the state has looked at about 30 of those structures in the Colorado Springs area.

Flood control is not impossible. One of the stated benefits of Pueblo Dam under the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project is to provide protection from floods. The operating rules of the dam allow holding back water if the Arkansas River is above 6,000 cubic feet per second at the Avondale gauge — a level that satisfies most water rights downstream.

However, Fountain Creek officials know they could have a tough time trying to unravel the water rights questions that will accompany any dam or detention pond project.

“It’s going to be a tough fight, but the best way is to confront it,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart. “We have to put an effort together to try to negotiate it up front. The only way to identify the issues is to speak to those who might be hurt downstream.”

More stormwater coverage here.


2014 Colorado November Election: Colorado Springs City Council approves IGA connected with stormwater enterprise ballot issue

August 28, 2014
Pikes Peak with Garden of the Gods in the foreground

Pikes Peak with Garden of the Gods in the foreground

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs City Council Tuesday approved an intergovernmental agreement connected with a ballot issue to form the Pikes Peak Regional Drainage Authority. The vote was 7-2.

The issue is expected to be placed on the ballot by El Paso County commissioners at their meeting next week. It would establish the authority to include the county, Colorado Springs, Fountain, Green Mountain Falls and Manitou Springs. The authority would raise about $39 million annually through fees to address a $700 million backlog in stormwater projects.

Stormwater control on Fountain Creek was one of the premises Colorado Springs Utilities used to obtain permits from Pueblo County and the federal government in order to build the Southern Delivery System.

Colorado Mayor Steve Bach immediately opposed the measure. He said the average bill of $92.40 per year would be 77 percent higher than the fee for the former stormwater enterprise and roughly the same amount homeowners now pay (in property taxes) for all city services combined.

“I believe this IGA is not fair to the citizens of Colorado Springs,” Bach said in a statement.

More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.


Woodland Park stormwater management

August 27, 2014

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

These are the facts accepted by all parties: Last summer and this summer, Green Mountain Falls has seen destructive floods following unusually heavy rains. The town was not affected by the Waldo Canyon Fire. The floods are not the result of runoff from a burn scar. And Woodland Park, located up the pass, has added major developments in recent years, including some alongside Fountain Creek.

Public officials interviewed for this story said they weren’t ready to start playing the blame game. But some people in Green Mountain Falls, especially those who live or own businesses along the creek, are getting edgy. A few have seen bridges washed out multiple times. Mayor Lorrie Worthey says even her home, which is located on a hill, recently had a flooded mudroom.

“There is more water coming down from Woodland; Woodland has grown a lot,” Worthey says carefully. “With that, we are going to get more water.”

Bill Alspach, Woodland Park’s public works director and city engineer, also is cautious when speaking of the Green Mountain Falls flooding. “Woodland Park has strived to be a good steward of the headwaters,” he says.

Woodland Park development affects two watersheds, Fountain Creek and the South Platte. Since the 1990s, the Fountain Creek side has seen the building of Walmart and Safeway stores, each with sprawling parking lots. An apartment complex is also currently under construction.

Alspach says Green Mountain Falls shouldn’t be affected by such development because Woodland Park has had strict stormwater development requirements since 1994. Driving behind the Walmart, he points out two large, grassy retention ponds that slowly release runoff during storms. He’s checked those ponds during downpours, he says, and they’ve been doing their job.

The Safeway doesn’t have such ponds, but Alspach says that’s on purpose, because allowing the water to run off there was found to reduce peak flows in the creek. The apartment complex also has retention ponds, and sits next to a $2.1 million stormwater project that was recently completed by the city and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Water flows in an underground box culvert, and is slowed by barricades before it hits a large channel.

He also points out private and public retention ponds that dot the town, especially in newer developments.

Woodland Park just forked over $100,000 for stormwater repairs needed after a damaging July storm, and is still paying off bonds from major stream work in 1998 and 1999. Alspach says he’s working his way west-to-east along Fountain Creek, doing upgrades. By the end of next year, he hopes to be close to finishing all the improvements in the city area, and to have a study in hand of what needs to be done on private and Teller County land that stretches between the eastern edge of the city and the Walmart.

All this work has been done, Alspach notes, with money from grants, Woodland Park’s limited general fund budget, a special streets fund and stormwater fees. It’s been done despite the fact that the town is too small to be bound by state permits for water quality.

“We have really endeavored to do the right thing for a long time,” he says.

More stormwater coverage here.


2014 Colorado November election: El Paso County Stormwater issue on November ballot #COpolitics

August 25, 2014
Fountain Creek Watershed

Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

It’s the end of the third quarter in the proposed stormwater funding plan, and a group of residents who have been working on the issue for two years have their game faces on. They saw a contract approved by the El Paso County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that outlines how a regional stormwater authority would work and be governed should voters approve it in November.

But as the task force members and their consultants huddled after the meeting, there was little time to feel cocky about the victory. It’s a milestone, said Dave Munger, co-chair of the regional stormwater task force, but the game isn’t finished – or won – yet.

“The fourth quarter will be the election,” he said.

Munger’s co-chair and consultant to the group Kevin Walker added: “Nov. 4 is when it will be over.”[...]

If the committee work was the first two quarters of the game, then the third quarter got rough and tumble in recent meetings as [Colorado Springs Mayor] Bach, council members and the rest of the task force hashed out the details of the stormwater contract, called an intergovernmental agreement. The council approved the contract, without most of Bach’s proposed changes.

Bach held a news conference Aug. 13, announcing that he would not support the proposed stormwater authority. The same day the task force held a news conference to tout its plan.

And now the campaign season, or the fourth quarter, begins, Walker said.

Voters will be asked to OK an annual stormwater fee, which would be roughly $92 a year for a home with 3,000 square feet of impervious surface. If approved, a regional authority expects to collect about $39.2 million a year for 20 years.

Most of the money would be spent on construction projects and maintenance and operations of existing flood control projects.

About 10 percent of the fees collected would be set aside for flooding emergencies.

More 2015 Colorado November election coverage here.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,014 other followers

%d bloggers like this: