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.

Ditch companies are running out of time for repairs, the runoff is coming #COflood

April 6, 2014
St. Vrain River floodplain November 2013 via the Longmont Times-Call

St. Vrain River floodplain November 2013 via the Longmont Times-Call

From the Longmont Times-Call (Tony Kindelspire):

Left Hand Creek has been diverted from its main channel by a temporary earthen dam with two 48-inch pipes running through the middle of it. That’s so the workmen can rebuild the diversion dam and headgate that last September’s flood obliterated.

“We have like 13 spots that we’re working on, various levels of destruction, with this being the worst. This is the Allen’s Lake diversion,” said Plummer, vice president of maintenance and operations for the Left Hand Ditch Co. “Most everything was just buried in debris. … The Allen’s Lake diversion was just rolled up into a ball of concrete and steel.”[...]

Ditch companies control the water rights to irrigation ditches and are charged with maintaining them. The Left Hand Ditch Co. is typical of most such entities: it’s privately held and owned by shareholders — in the case of Left Hand, 460 shareholders. Sixteen percent of its shares are owned by the Left Hand Water District and goes toward drinking water, and the rest goes to agriculture.

Ditches operate using diversion dams and headgates. The dams slow the water and back it up so it can then flow through the headgate, which is opened to let water through.

In the Allen’s Lake diversion both the dam and headgate were wiped out, and in the narrow riverbed of Left Hand Canyon, the only way to replace them is to divert the river, build half the structure, then move the river again and build the other half.

“We’ll get that (side) done and then we’ll move the river back over,” Plummer said as he watched the construction crew pour concrete. “What we’re doing is racing, we’re racing the run-off.”[...]

Sean Cronin, executive director of the St. Vrain & Left Hand Water Conservancy District, attended an emergency meeting of the Highland Ditch Co. in the days following the flood.

“Not repairing this is not an option,” Cronin recalls hearing the shareholders — many of whom are farmers — saying in the meeting. “This is how we make our living.”

Cronin said there are 94 ditches and reservoirs within the St. Vrain & Left Hand district, and of those 43 suffered some amount of damage, totaling about $18 million. Some, such as the Highland, were completely destroyed.

September’s flood all but wiped out the Highland’s diversion dam and headgate, which were built in 1870. What little remained after the water subsided was not repairable.

The Highland Ditch, the biggest in the St. Vrain basin, goes all the way to Milliken, primarily serving ag land but also providing some of the city of Longmont’s drinking water.

The diversion dam and headgate were rebuilt at a cost of $750,000, according to Wade Gonzales, superintendent of the Highland Ditch Co…

The “Big Three” headgates, as far as Longmont is concerned — the Highland, the Oligarchy and the Rough & Ready/Palmerton — were all destroyed by the flood, according to Kevin Boden, environmental project specialist with the city of Longmont’s Public Works and Natural Resources Department.

The Oligarchy, it should be noted, actually held up during the initial flood but then finally gave way the following Sunday during heavy rains.

All three either have been or will be repaired by May 1, Boden said…

[Dave Nettles] said that although the Poudre, Big Thompson and Boulder Creek watersheds all sustained some damage, none of them reached the “catastrophic” levels seen in the St. Vrain and Little Thompson watersheds.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Flood control solutions for Fountain Creek are far from settled

April 6, 2014
Fountain Creek Watershed

Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The type of storm that would creating the worst flooding on Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River east of Pueblo might just seem like another rainy day for much of the region. But the lessons of floods in 1965 and last September’s close call for Pueblo show that Fountain Creek can froth up in a hurry when rains hit El Paso County to the north. Putting a small dam here and there would not be the most effective way to stop the water.

A recent U.S. Geological Survey study of dams on Fountain Creek shows that an 85-foot tall dam north of Pueblo would be the single-most effective way to mellow out flood waters and trap sediment. The drawbacks of the dam are that highways, railroad crossings and utilities might have to be relocated. There would also be the chore of removing sediment after large storms.

Smaller detention ponds, with dams no higher than 10 feet, are touted by many as a better alternative. But as Colorado Springs and Pueblo already are discovering, smaller ponds also require high maintenance. Similar dams failed to hold stormwater in the South Platte during last September’s record rains. And the cost of flooding to utilities and roads was a major side effect of the 1965 flood.

A different study of flooding was done by the USGS in 1974, nine years after the disastrous 1965 flood. Unlike the current study, it largely eluded the spotlight and has not been widely cited during the 40 years since it was written. It looked at floods in the Arkansas River basin in three states, Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico and assessed the causes, effects and damage caused by heavy rains from June 13-20, 1965. The study chronicled $60 million of damage overall, with $40 million in Colorado. In today’s dollars, that would be about $300 million. Of that, 55 percent of the damage was to agriculture; 20 percent to roads and utilities; and 25 percent to cities and businesses, with about 85 percent of that amount in Pueblo.

The study also looked at peak flows within the basin during the 1965 flood and compared them to other major floods, particularly the 1921 flood on the Arkansas River. The flows were considerably less in 1965 than in 1921, mainly because storms were centered over tributaries that fed into the Arkansas River below Pueblo, rather than in the watershed upstream from Pueblo.

The study found a huge benefit to Lamar from John Martin Reservoir, which cut two-thirds of the peak flows raging from upstream. The Lamar area did not escape the wrath of the storm, however, because of large storm cells centered above Two Buttes and Holly. The Arkansas River stayed swollen for days after the rains.

The heaviest rainfall in the 1965 storm came from Colorado Springs and the Holly-Two Buttes area, where 12-18 inches fell over a four-day period. Pueblo saw only a couple of inches during that time. The ground already was saturated from rains the previous two months throughout the region. Flows on Fountain Creek reached 47,000 cubic feet per second at their peak, while neighboring Chico Creek hit 52,000 cfs.

The 2014 study by the USGS modeled a 100-year storm that would send about 37,000 cfs from Colorado Springs to Pueblo and then looked at hypothetical dams along the way.

“A dam at any location could be modeled,” said David Mau, head of the Pueblo USGS office.

The intensity of that storm would not be as great as the 1965 flood. In addition, Colorado Springs today has five times as many people and many more square miles of parking lots, roof tops and streets that shed water quickly and would make flooding that much worse for Pueblo.

Levees were built on Fountain Creek to protect Pueblo, but sediment has reduced their effectiveness. Some structures meant to protect Pueblo were damaged by the relatively small flow last September.

The attention in Colorado Springs is focused on the accelerated runoff from the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires. Structures are being built. Town meetings are preparing neighborhoods for flooding. A vote to create a regional stormwater fee is heading for the ballot in November.

Colorado Springs also made a commitment to Pueblo County in its permit process that new development from the Southern Delivery System won’t worsen the condition of Fountain Creek.

While the rains may hit Colorado Springs first and make flooding more intense because of the fires, the 1974 USGS study shows the bigger wallop would come to Pueblo and the Lower Arkansas Valley.

More Fountain Creek watershed coverage here.

Water Hazards: From Risk to Recovery — AWRA Colorado Section Annual Symposium (May 2)

April 5, 2014
September 2013 flooding

September 2013 flooding

Click here to go to the symposium page for the pitch and to register.

Managing water resources in Colorado requires managing risk. This year’s symposium will feature discussions on the various types of risks to our water resources, with special consideration given to the impacts and implications of the September 2013 floods.

We are pleased to have an outstanding and diverse group of speakers, including our Keynote Speaker, James Eklund who will discuss the relationship between the State Water Plan and managing risk. Presenters in our morning session will help us better understand the types of risks to water resources. The afternoon break-out sessions will feature experts from a variety of disciplines who will discuss the on-the-ground impacts of the September 2013 floods. The day will conclude with insights from Jamestown Mayor Tara Schoedinger and CSU Sociology Professor Stephanie Malin, who will help us understand how risk impacts our communities.

To raise money for the Scholarship Fund, we are holding our fourth annual silent auction at the symposium.

Colorado Springs: 100+ attend Camp Creek flood meeting #COflood

April 3, 2014
Camp Creek channel via City of Colorado Springs

Camp Creek channel via City of Colorado Springs

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Matt Steiner):

A crowd of more than 100 people echoed a mantra in unison that multiple Colorado Springs officials stressed at a flood preparedness meeting on Tuesday night.

“Up, not out,” the said loudly after being prompted by police Lt. Dave Edmondson…

City officials, including Emergency Manager Brett Waters and others talked about the 2013 floods that struck the city and El Paso County in July, August and September. Waters said his colleagues and the residents need to “take flood risk very seriously,” noting that flash floods coming out of the Waldo Canyon Fire burn scar are going to be an issue “for at least the next 10 years.”

Tim Mitros, the city’s development review and stormwater manager, showed slide after slide of the dangers that lie in the Camp Creek drainage in the hills to the west of Colorado Springs. The pictures illustrated barren, burnout out slopes that have already, and could, send tons of dirt rocks and other debris into the channel along Garden of the Gods Park. and into the Pleasant Valley neighborhood.

“We’ve got to keep the sediment up in the burn area,” Mitros said.

Mitros said city crews will begin building a large sediment detention pond on the east end of Garden of the Gods Park in the next month. At that time, workers will also begin doing repairs to the channel in the middle of 31st Street near Pleasant Valley. They will be adding a “protective layer of concrete” to badly damaged parts of the creek between West Fontanero Street and Echo Lane.

The work is the beginning stages of a $37 million project to rebuild the channel from Garden of the Gods Park to Colorado Avenue, Mitros said. The city already allotted $8.8 million to do work in Camp and Douglas creeks. MIiros said the final designs for the entire project will be unveiled at another Camp Creek watershed public meeting from 5 to 7:30 p.m. April 29 at Coronado High School.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jennifer Stark also talked about the dangers of debris in the Camp Creek and Douglas Creek areas. She said storms in September that ravaged the Front Range from El Paso County north to the Wyoming border left tons and tons of debris sitting just above the city.

“The next big rain event could bring that stuff down,” she said.

More Fountain Creek watershed coverage here.

Colorado Springs: The Waldo Canyon Fire restoration will cost $ millions and take at least 10 years

April 3, 2014
Waldo Canyon Fire burn scar

Waldo Canyon Fire burn scar

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The images of a glowing sky that filled the air with choking smoke won’t soon fade, but the damage to forested hillsides charred by the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012 will be more troublesome for years. Colorado Springs had a taste of things to come during last September’s torrential rains, but it will take millions of dollars and at least a decade to recover the damaged landscape.

“We built basins to collect sediment over a 10-year period, but they filled up during the flooding last September,” said Tim Mitros, Colorado Springs stormwater manager, during a media tour of projects Wednesday.

So now the city is building a series of ponds that will trap floodwater, along with making other drainage improvements on North Douglas Creek, South Douglas Creek, Queens Canyon, Cheyenne Creek and Camp Creek on the west side of Colorado Springs. Altogether the projects will cost $8.8 million in additional stormwater funding from federal, state and city sources.

The catch basins worked, but filled too quickly, Mitros explained during a tour of one on North Douglas Creek on the Flying W Ranch. The idea behind them was to allow new vegetation to sprout as they filled, but the storms left a bed of gravel that would just sheet off water in the next storm.

Jason Moore, director of land management for the Flying W, explained how downed trees are criss-crossed along the creek bed to slow down minor flows.

“They’re in a W shape, so we call them Flying W’s,” Moore joked.

The ponds are being constructed with the cooperation of landowners, but must be cleaned by city crews after each storm dumps its load of sediment. Mitros said the city is fortunate because it is working with only two large landowners, the Navigators and Flying W, and both have been cooperative.

“Without the ponds, the sediment will continue to fill the concrete channel below and put them in danger of being overtopped,” Mitros said.

That will continue to be a big job. Colorado Springs still is hauling 6,000 cubic yards of sediment — 600 truckloads — that washed into Garden of the Gods Park after last summer’s storms. There would be some benefit to Pueblo, because anything done high up in the watershed helps to slow down the water reaching Fountain Creek, Mitros said. Primarily, however, the projects are being undertaken to protect the homes and businesses in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood that was decimated when the Waldo Canyon Fire burned 347 homes. Those homes are being rebuilt, but now face a different threat. They lie below valleys that are normally dry, but which become running rivers when it rains. Because the fire burned off much of the vegetation, any flood becomes about 10 times as powerful, said Leon Kot, restoration coordinator for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Besides the new threat of runoff, Colorado Springs also is dealing with miles of concrete storm ditches, some more than 50 years old, that have fallen into disrepair. About 1,000 feet of 8-foot diameter pipeline buried near Eighth Street and Cheyenne Boulevard was overwhelmed by the September flooding and is being replaced in a $750,000 project.

More Fountain Creek watershed coverage here.

‘We have to have detention ponds there, so it doesn’t wash out what we are doing in Pueblo’ — Eva Montoya

April 1, 2014

Photo via The Pueblo Chieftain

Photo via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Three contracts totaling more than $600,000 were approved Friday by the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board. The contracts are funded by state grants. They include two contracts for $502,000 for the Upper Fountain Creek and Cheyenne Creek restoration master plan, and another for $107,000 for the Frost Ranch restoration project. The three projects are among five projects the district is directly coordinating throughout the watershed. They also include a flood detention demonstration pond in Pueblo, located behind the North Side Walmart, and a project on Monument Creek.

In addition, the district has cooperated in obtaining other grants for communities along Fountain Creek.

Those efforts include a sediment collector in the city of Pueblo, which is being evaluated by the city, and a Great Outdoors Colorado grant that included funds for a wheel park, expanded park and beach area on the East Side just south of Eighth Street.

During discussion of flood control alternatives on Fountain Creek, Pueblo Councilwoman Eva Montoya said projects to the north are needed to control Pueblo flows.

“We have to have detention ponds there, so it doesn’t wash out what we are doing in Pueblo,” she said.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

As Big As It Gets: Clean Water Act Rulemaking

March 31, 2014

Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:

By Mark Scharfenaker

Everyone seriously interested in water quality throughout the United States has 90 days to let EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers and federal lawmakers know what they think about the agency’s newly proposed rule intended to clarify just where in a watershed the protections of the Clean Water Act cease to apply.

This long-awaited rulemaking aims to define CWA jurisdiction over streams and wetlands distant from “navigable” waters of the United States…the lines of which were muddied by recent Supreme Court rulings rooted in a sense that perhaps EPA and the Corps had strayed too far in requiring CWA dredge-and-fill permits for such “waters” as intermittent streams and isolated potholes.

This rule is as big as it gets in respect to protecting waterways from nonfarm pollutant discharges, and the proposal has not calmed the conflict between those who want the jurisdictional line closer to navigable waters and…

View original 788 more words

The Fountain Creek District is studying the potential effects of flood control dams

March 29, 2014
Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater via The Pueblo Chieftain

Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A district formed to fix Fountain Creek wants to begin looking more closely at the feasibility of flood control alternatives meant to protect Pueblo.

“This is a good start to beginning to understand the volume of water and the impact of dams, but we need to do an analysis to figure out cost options,” Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart said.

Hart is the county’s representative on the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, which met Friday to receive the final report on a Fountain Creek dam study.

A computer simulation by the U.S. Geological Survey looked at 13 scenarios by centering a 100-year storm over Colorado Springs and measuring the impact on reducing flood waters in Pueblo by constructing dams at various points in the watershed.

“It did not look at property and water rights issues,” said David Mau, head of the Pueblo USGS office.

The most promising alternatives, in terms of protecting Pueblo, were to build a series of small dams south of Colorado Springs, or one large dam near Pinon, just north of Pueblo.

Hart asked Mau whether it would be possible to model a larger off-channel diversion near the Pueblo County line.

“You could look at that using the model,” Mau confirmed.

Mau said the alternatives presented in the study were those suggested by the district’s technical committee, and do not represent the only choices. The study focused on small dams because dams under 10 feet face less regulatory issues. An 85-foot-high dam 10 miles north of the confluence with the Arkansas River was modeled, but would not be the only alternative for a large dam, he said.

Dams in other areas of the watershed might have more localized benefits, Mau added.

“What’s important is the volume of water and where it is stored,” he said.

The district will not have any money to begin construction until Colorado Springs pays the remainder of the $50 million it agreed to provide the district under its 1041 agreement with Pueblo County.

It would need about $60,000 in grants to drill down to cost estimates on two or three of the alternatives, said Larry Small, executive director. A feasibility study would look at land acquisition, permits, construction issues and how long it would take, Small said.

“We need to get going as quickly as we can,” said Richard Skorman, a board member from Colorado Springs.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Longmont: Council asking voters for $20 million bond issue to deal with September #COflood

March 26, 2014

From the Longmont Times-Call (Scott Rochat):

The City Council voted 7-0 Tuesday to prepare the ballot issue; the exact language will be approved at a later meeting.

“I see this bond election as vital,” Councilman Gabe Santos said.

City officials hope to make the St. Vrain River capable of holding a 100-year flood all the way through Longmont, something it has never been able to do. Before September’s flood, the St. Vrain’s maximum capacity was about 5,000 cubic feet per second; a 100-year flood carries 10,000 cfs.

That kind of carrying capacity comes with a price tag between $65 million and $80 million, public works director Dale Rademacher said. With $20 million in “flood bonds,” he said, the city could pull together a stronger local match to attract state and federal dollars.

If those bonds pass, he said, the city could put together $47.6 million itself, including:

• $8.5 million in already-approved bridge work at Main Street, Sunset Street and South Pratt Parkway.

• $7 million from the street fund (which is due to be reapproved by voters in November).

• $1.6 million in open space and water fund money.

• $500,000 from the conservation trust fund.

• A possible $10 million in “alternative project” funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, money that would normally go to re-creating the eastern stretch of the St. Vrain that could be used elsewhere if the river’s course is left alone.

Even with the bonds, that still leaves a funding gap of $17.4 million to $32.4 million. But the money can let Longmont be in a stronger position to get funds from FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers and from Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery grants. The city plans to apply for $52 million of grants from all those sources, but doesn’t expect to get everything.

“I think if we get a fraction of that, we should be happy,” Rademacher said of the FEMA grant application, a shot at a $37 million target.

El Paso County stormwater task force presents fee proposal to the Colorado Springs City Council

March 26, 2014
Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

An El Paso County task force is moving a ballot issue this November to create a regional fee for stormwater control.

“People recognize this is a problem for us, and to not address the problem as elected leaders is not acceptable,” said El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey.

The task force has been meeting for nearly two years, and has moved to citizen control after elected leaders and paid government staff got the ball rolling.

On Monday, the group presented a plan to Colorado Springs City Council that would assess a monthly fee of $8-$12 for most property owners to raise $50 million annually for the next 20-30 years. Council and county commissioners meet today to jointly discuss several issues, including the stormwater fee. The money would go toward addressing $700 million in stormwater projects in El Paso County, including about $250 million in high-priority projects.

Getting the issue to the ballot will not be a simple task. The commissioners have to approve ballot language, and it’s not known what that will look like or who would challenge it.

The first step will be for the citizens task force to obtain intergovernmental agreements from all of the incorporated cities and potentially special districts in El Paso County. Manitou Springs and a district in the northern part of the county already have stormwater fees, Hisey explained.

“We don’t want anyone paying double taxes for the same service,” he said.

The IGAs should be in place before the ballot issue is approved, so that the structure of the authority that will administer the funds can be determined. One of the issues brought up in earlier meetings by Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach was retaining local control over the city’s share of the projects.

Under last year’s changes in election laws, all of the pre-ballot work has to be done by the end of July, Hisey said.

In 2009, Colorado Springs City Council voted to dissolve a stormwater enterprise that it created four years earlier, based on its interpretation of a city election.

Officials from Pueblo and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District were angered by the move because the stormwater enterprise was used as a condition to address Fountain Creek flooding issues for permit approval by Colorado Springs for its Southern Delivery System.

“The hope of the Lower Ark district is that voters will pass it, and Colorado Springs will live up to its commitments under the Pueblo County 1041 permit,” said Jay Winner, Lower Ark general manager. “As a district, we are patiently waiting to see what happens.”

More stormwater 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.

COGCC issues ‘Lessons Learned’ report for operations affected by September #COflood

March 18, 2014
Production fluids leak into surface water September 2013 -- Photo/The Denver Post

Production fluids leak into surface water September 2013 — Photo/The Denver Post

From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

…while images of tipped storage tanks and flooded well sites were part of the national media coverage of the storm and the aftermath, the amount of petroleum products spilled into the rushing waters was small compared to the raw sewage and chemicals from flooded wastewater treatment plants, homes, stores and other facilities, state officials said in the weeks following the flood.

Now, the COGCC, which oversees the state’s multi-billion dollar oil and gas industry, issued its staff report to focus on “Lessons Learned” from the flood. The report doesn’t suggest putting new laws in place, but does propose the COGCC consider adopting “best management” practices for oil and gas equipment located near Colorado’s streams and rivers.
Along with encouraging remote wells, the COGCC recommends boosting the construction requirements for wells located near streams and rivers and developing an emergency manual to help the the COGCC staff better respond in the early days of a future emergency.

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Jerd Smith):

In the wake of last September’s floods, a new report from state oil and gas regulators recommends that oil companies maintain precise locations and inventories of wells and production equipment near waterways, that all new wells near waterways contain remote shut-in equipment, and that no open pits be allowed within a designated distance from the high-water mark of any given streams.

In the report, released Monday, staff of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said they would not recommend any new state laws to address flood damage in oil and gas fields, but that they would suggest changes to regulations governing how production and gathering facilities are sited and constructed.

The commission noted that more than 5,900 oil and gas wells are within 500 feet of a Colorado stream.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, however, said that the industry responded well to the emergency and that no further regulatory action was needed.

“The floods were a difficult and trying event for everyone, and we are proud at our ability to engage meaningfully in the response and recovery of our Colorado communities,” Tisha Schuller, president and chief executive of the association, said in a statement Monday afternoon. “The flood report reiterated facts supporting that Colorado’s oil and gas industry was extraordinarily well prepared, responded in real time, and is committed to Colorado’s recovery.

From the Associated Press via The Colorado Springs Gazette:

The suggestions from the commission’s staff include requiring that storage tanks be anchored with cables so they’re less likely to tip and spill and requiring all wells within a certain distance of waterways to be equipped with devices that allow operators to shut them down remotely.

The staff recommendations didn’t say what that distance should be.

The commission is expected to discuss the proposed rules at a meeting this spring.

The report described the flood damage to storage tanks and production equipment as “substantial and expensive” but gave no dollar amount. It also said oil and gas production has still not returned to pre-flood levels but again gave no figures.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Tougher floodplain rules for Montezuma County

March 2, 2014

La Plata Mountains from the Great Sage Plain

La Plata Mountains from the Great Sage Plain

From the Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

New floodplain regulations were implemented in Montezuma County Jan. 13 to comply with higher standards established by the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Colorado adopted rules to provide increased floodplain management standards in order to help communities prepare, plan for, respond to, and mitigate the effects of future flood damage.

The main change for the county, explained community services director James Dietrich, will be for critical facilities. If in a designated flood plain, those structures must now be built 2 feet above the base-flood elevation instead of the previous 1-foot standard.

Critical facilities include hospitals, schools, nursing homes, daycare facilities, power stations, and government/public buildings.

Building regulations for non-critical facilities in the floodplain did not change from the 1-foot over the base-flood elevation. Also, there were no changes to the county floodplain boundaries.

More Montezuma County coverage here.

CDOT will be working on Fountain Creek flood mitigation for a month or so #COflood

February 23, 2014

Fountain Creek Watershed

Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Matt Steiner):

Travelers using U.S. 24 west of Manitou Springs will face some severe delays over the next month as the Colorado Department of Transportation upgrades a culvert under the highway near the mouth of Waldo Canyon.

According to CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson, the $1.4 million flood mitigation work began Wednesday. Wilson said one lane in each direction will be closed until 6 p.m. daily through Friday. Crews will work full force beginning Saturday, when CDOT will shut down both eastbound lanes around the clock. The westbound side of the divided highway will have one lane open in each direction.

“People will have to add a little extra time for their travels,” Wilson said.

According to Wilson, the eastbound lanes will be closed for about two weeks. Once the culvert is installed under that side of the highway, the project will shift and the westbound lanes will be closed.

Wilson said CDOT will install a 24-foot wide and 10-foot high culvert that will be “10 times larger than the pipe that’s under the highway right now.” He said the current 72-inch pipe is a choke point when heavy rains hit the more than 18,000 acre Waldo Canyon burn area. The fire that began June 23, 2012, destroyed 347 homes in western Colorado Springs and killed two people.

CDOT estimates the culvert project will be finished by the end of April.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.

El Paso Couny: ‘The stormwater task force is leaning toward a new regional authority’ — Mark Pifher

February 20, 2014
Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

El Paso County is moving toward a regional stormwater authority that could be formed in an election this November. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District heard that news Wednesday from Mark Pifher, Colorado Springs Utilities permit manager for the Southern Delivery System.

“The stormwater task force is leaning toward a new regional authority that would be funded by a fee rather than a sales tax or property tax,” Pifher said.

The fee would be based on square footage of impervious surfaces, such as other cities throughout the state, including Pueblo. While no public vote is required for a fee, El Paso County officials recognize that a vote would be prudent to form the authority that would assess the fee, Pifher said.

The latest estimate of stormwater needs in El Paso County is at $724 million, with $192 million in critical needs. Of that, $534 million is needed for Colorado Springs, with $161 million in critical projects. An additional $40 million is estimated so far to deal with impacts from the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires.

The Lower Ark board still is looking at a possible federal lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation for its refusal to reopen an environmental impact study for SDS that calculates impacts without a stormwater system in place. The district is concerned that increased flows from SDS development will worsen conditions on Fountain Creek. Reclamation issued a record of decision for SDS in early 2009, which became the basis for contracts issued the following year. Later in 2009, the Colorado Springs City Council abolished the stormwater enterprise it had formed in 2005 based on its interpretation of a ballot question sponsored by Doug Bruce, who referred to the fee then in place as a “rain tax.”

The stormwater task force formed in 2012 in response to a city attorney’s opinion that the city was obligated to deal with stormwater in order to operate SDS.

More stormwater coverage here and here.

Fountain Creek: ‘A vision plan is only as valuable as its ability to be implemented’ — Jeff Shoemaker

February 8, 2014

Fountain Creek

Fountain Creek

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

If you wanted to make a really fun toy, you would first have to go through the relatively boring process of building a factory.

So, after a mundane afternoon of listening to all of the problems of how fixing Fountain Creek has to meet the needs of state water planning, funding challenges, water quality and flood control, the crowd of 40 elected officials and business people finally got to the fun stuff.

Jeff Shoemaker, executive director of the Greenway Foundation in Denver, told the group how to turn a $125 million investment over 40 years into $12 billion in economic development benefits.

Now that’s fun.

“We like to call it a 40-year overnight success,” Shoemaker told the group, assembled by the Southern Colorado Business Partnership at Pikes Peak International Raceway Wednesday. “A vision plan is only as valuable as its ability to be implemented.”

There are parallels between the current effort to fix Fountain Creek and the Greenway Foundation’s unceasing quest to improve the South Platte River through Denver.

In 1965, that reach of the South Platte was a miserable, forgotten waterway. Trash and sewage were dumped in it with little thought. That changed when Joe Shoemaker, Jeff’s father, convinced the state to create the Denver Urban Drainage District in 1974. The district provided the canvas for the Greenway Foundation — in partnership with government and the private sector — to paint the future of Lower Downtown Denver, now among Colorado’s most valuable real estate.

“And we’re just getting started,” Shoemaker said.

Fast forward to 2009.

A vision task force convinced the state to form the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, which since has struggled simply to find a way to fund its own existence. The district is patterned after the Denver Urban Drainage District and encompasses Pueblo and El Paso counties. Other speakers throughout the afternoon had dwelt on the problems and challenges of fixing Fountain Creek, which periodically sends sheets of water Pueblo’s way compounded by development in Colorado Springs and the surrounding area.

They spoke about flood control, mitigation projects and the need to protect agriculture while serving growing municipal needs through projects like Southern Delivery System.

So far, it has been optimistic frustration.

“Fountain Creek has been an amenity for academics,” joked Larry Small, director of the Fountain Creek district, referring to the volumes of past studies, which largely gather dust on shelves.

Projects themselves — SDS, flood control and creek improvements — have brought several million dollars into the area, but much of it has been government-driven.

Meanwhile, the South Platte has grown rich on the back of flood control projects like Chatfield Dam, and draws thousands of people to the river through an ambitious network of parks and recreation activities, Shoemaker said.

“Everything we do has a water-quality component,” Shoemaker said.

That type of thinking can benefit Pueblo, said Eva Montoya, Fountain Creek board president and a Pueblo City Council member.

“We got many of our ideas from the Greenway Foundation,” she said, referring to a new wheel park that is being designed for Pueblo’s Historic East Side.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Colorado Springs: Camp Creek stormwater meeting, February 25

February 8, 2014
Camp Creek channel via City of Colorado Springs

Camp Creek channel via City of Colorado Springs

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

If you live in or around the Pleasant Valley neighborhood on the west side, then you’re probably already aware of the dangers of the Camp Creek watershed.

But allow me to review: the Camp Creek watershed is huge by local standards, and was scorched in the Waldo Canyon fire, leaving it particularly vulnerable to flooding. Worse, the water flowing from scorched hillsides is funneled into a narrow, steep shoot near Garden of the Gods, before it comes rushing through Rock Ledge Ranch, and then down a severely undersized concrete channel that cuts through the Pleasant Valley neighborhood. From there, the water meets Fountain Creek near West Colorado Avenue.

The area already saw some flooding and debris deposits in last summer’s storms, but not nearly what it could have. In terms of potential for destruction, should the right storm hit, Camp Creek is one of the most dangerous watersheds. Which is why the city is really eager to do some upgrades to the stormwater system before next summer’s monsoon season.

On Feb. 25, the city will present alternative plans to deal with stormwater systems. Nearby residents are encouraged to attend and give input.

More stormwater coverage here.

‘Eva Montoya was elected to chair the [Fountain Creek district board] last week’ — Chris Woodka

January 26, 2014
Fountain Creek

Fountain Creek

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo City Councilwoman Eva Montoya was elected to chair the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board last week. Colorado Springs Councilman Val Snider will serve as vice chairman. The board’s top job rotates between elected officials in El Paso and Pueblo counties annually. The board has nine members — four from each county and one from the citizens advisory group.

Other Pueblo County members are Commissioner Terry Hart; Melissa Esquibel of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board; and Jane Rhodes, who owns land on Fountain Creek.

Other El Paso County members are Commissioner Dennis Hisey, Palmer Lake Trustee Michael Maddox, and Fountain Mayor Gabe Ortega.

Richard Skorman, of Colorado Springs, represents the CAG, which is made up of members from both counties. On Friday, the board also approved 14 appointments each to the CAG and its Technical Advisory Committee.

The board also renewed Executive Director Larry Small’s contract at $30,000 per year.

Meanwhile the district is keeping an eye out for project dough from Colorado Springs. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

Will the City for Champions drive to boost tourism in Colorado Springs detract from funds for flood control? The question was raised Friday by Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart at the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, who heard the comment in a recent television report.

El Paso County members of the district immediately assured him the funding streams are separate and would not impair a drive to get some sort of stormwater fee or tax on this November’s ballot.

“If we see another major project competing, we sit up and take notice,” Hart said. “We’re looking for a dedicated revenue source for stormwater.”

The question of Colorado Springs stormwater funding has vexed Pueblo County officials since 2009, when City Council abolished a stormwater enterprise created four years earlier and funded for just three years. As part of conditions for a 1041 land use permit for Southern Delivery System, Colorado Springs pledged to keep its stormwater utility in place. The permit even requires other communities that tie onto SDS to have an enterprise like Colorado Springs had in place.

A regional task force began meeting in 2012, when Colorado Springs leadership admitted it should be funding $13 million-$15 million in stormwater projects annually. Two of the largest, most destructive fires in the state’s history have compounded the potential damage from flooding. Richard Skorman, a former Colorado Springs councilman who has worked with the stormwater task force, said it is moving toward a way to fund stormwater improvements on a more permanent basis and place a measure on the November ballot.

El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey and Fountain Creek district Executive Director Larry Small, another former Springs councilman, said Mayor Steve Bach’s City for Champions proposal uses a sales tax incremental financing plan, rather than a direct tax or fee. City for Champions is a $250 million package to fund an Olympic museum, stadium, arena and other improvements designed to draw tourists to the Pikes Peak region. Meanwhile, El Paso County is faced with a backlog of about $750 million in stormwater projects. The city also has shortfalls in transportation and parks funding, Small said.

The Fountain Creek district has the ability to assess a 5-mill tax on property owners in El Paso and Pueblo County under the 2009 law that created it. Last year, the Fountain Creek board agreed to hold off on asking for any tax increase until Colorado Springs and El Paso County dealt with the stormwater issue.

More Fountain Creek coverage here.

Mesa County Commissioners want federal help for stormwater mitigation

January 20, 2014

Grand Junction with the Grand Mesa in background

Grand Junction with the Grand Mesa in background

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Emily Shockley):

Mesa County commissioners are asking the federal government to help local governments pay the tab for storm water damage mitigation and monitoring. Commissioners unanimously adopted a resolution Monday asking the federal government to take financial responsibility for storm water that flows from federal lands onto other land, potentially causing damage.

Federal regulations in many cases require local government entities to absorb costs associated with construction, maintenance, treatment and cleanup geared toward storm water cleanliness and damage mitigation. The resolution seeks federal support with those efforts because “a significant portion” of storm water problems in Mesa County are associated with unrestricted storm water flowing from federal lands onto other property.

“The purpose is to call the federal government to the ropes,” Julie Constan with the county’s Public Works Department told commissioners. “We’d like to have more of their active participation with the storm water management issues we do deal with, especially with storm water that comes off of federal lands.”

The resolution has been passed by the town of Palisade, the cities of Fruita and Grand Junction, the 5-2-1 Drainage Authority and the Grand Valley Drainage District as well.Constan said it will likely be reviewed by state legislators this year. The goal is to get Congress to read the resolution and act on it.

Specifically, the resolution requests federal assistance with the cost of conducting studies to determine which construction projects or repairs should be done and in what order when it comes to storm water that falls on federal lands. The resolution also seeks establishment of a program that would provide “timely financial assistance or reimbursement” to local governments for construction of flood detention or retention facilities and federally mandated storm water monitoring, analysis and treatment.

“I think it’s a great step in the right direction,” Commissioner Rose Pugliese said.

More stormwater coverage here.

El Paso County: ‘Once you have built a structure, you have to maintain it’ — Andre Brackin

January 18, 2014
Fountain Creek Watershed

Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

While needed capital stormwater projects that benefit Fountain Creek top $750 million, El Paso County still is lagging in maintaining its current infrastructure. El Paso County needs to be spending at least $5 million a year more to maintain the stormwater structures it already has in place, County Engineer Andre Brackin told elected officials Thursday.

“There has been a lack of long-term maintenance and monitoring these structures over time,” Brackin said. “Once you have built a structure, you have to maintain it.”

In addition, many of the older structures in Fountain Creek are the wrong type because they move water faster to the stream rather than allowing it to infiltrate as it did before development, he said.

New structures have to be able to handle intermediate floods rather than the 100-year or 500year monsters that cause extensive damage. To do that, El Paso County has to put more emphasis on regional planning and time projects for the most benefit.

“We can’t move ahead without a master plan,” Brackin said.

Besides the gap in maintenance, the revised list of flood control projects for Colorado Springs and El Paso County, finalized this month, fails to fully take into account the mitigation that will be needed for the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire.

Mayors from the incorporated cities in the county began the process of discussing how costs will be shared on Thursday.

More stormwater coverage here.

Colorado Springs Mayor Bach touting regional stormwater solutions, eschews tax increase to pay for them

January 17, 2014
Flooding in Colorado Springs June 6, 2012

Flooding in Colorado Springs June 6, 2012

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Mayor Steve Bach acknowledged that Fountain Creek stormwater control is a regional issue, but said his job is to look after his own “sandbox.”

“We know it has to be a regional solution,” Bach told a gathering of El Paso County elected officials, including mayors from five other cities, Thursday. “But don’t expect me to sign off on a tax increase.”

That said, Bach said it would be the job of Colorado Springs City Council and El Paso County commissioners to determine the budget, but his responsibility is to make sure the money is spent wisely. He acknowledged that upstream users have an obligation to relieve downstream problems caused by development or deteriorating infrastructure.

Bach provided a list of stormwater projects in this year’s budget that total $24.8 million. The money will make a small dent in the city’s $534 million backlog of stormwater projects. The figure includes $11 million in new funds and $13.8 million in carryover funds from 2013 — money that was budgeted but never spent. It also includes wildfire mitigation funds that were not envisioned in 2009, when Colorado Springs made commitments on Fountain Creek flood control to downstream users in Pueblo County as part of its permit process for Southern Delivery System.

At the same time, El Paso County has a backlog of $189 million in stormwater projects, some of which overlap Colorado Springs boundaries. Meanwhile, Fountain has compiled its own list of $40 million in needed flood control projects.

Councilwoman Jan Martin repeated council’s concerns that a sustainable funding source is needed to meet SDS requirements and to protect Colorado Springs.

“I think the public is looking for us to come up with one solution, not multiple solutions,” Martin said. “We’re not that far apart.”

After the meeting, Council President Keith King said Pueblo needs to be included in regional discussions.

“I would hope that any regional solution includes Pueblo County and the city of Pueblo,” King said. “We need to look to the Fountain Creek watershed district for a solution.”

A regional task force that has been meeting for the past two years plans to make recommendations for a sustainable funding solution by the end of February, El Paso County Commissioner Amy Lathen said.

In the past, Bach has resisted any solution that would increase taxes.

Meanwhile here’s a report about a recent study of stormwater issues from Matt Steiner writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. Here’s an excerpt:

Dave Munger, of the Pikes Peak Runoff and Flood Control Task Force, which is comprised of business leaders, city councilors, county commissioners, water district representatives and Colorado Springs Utilities representatives, presented the results of the November survey at the [El Paso County] commissioners regular meeting on Tuesday. The survey of 402 county voters showed most favor a regional solution with a steady stream of funding, but are adamant that the money shouldn’t come from added sales and property taxes or fees for El Paso County residents.

Hisey stressed that in order to find a long-term solution, however, new taxes and fees will likely be an inevitable reality…

Munger’s presentation Tuesday showed that flood coverage by media and several public meetings have kept awareness high since the first flash flood closed Highway 24 near Cascade on June 30, 2012, shortly after the Waldo Canyon Fire was contained.

While 61 percent of those surveyed said they had not been personally impacted by the flooding, 64 percent said flood control and storm runoff is “very important” to the entire Pikes Peak region.

The survey also took into consideration a series of mid-September floods that reached from southern El Paso County along the entire Front Range north to the Wyoming border. During those storms, thousands of people were displaced, roadways were washed out and 10 people were killed, including two in El Paso County.

Hisey said the next step in battling floods and regional stormwater issues is to “come up with some good ideas that might solve the problem” that will compliment several projects that have already been done by the county, the city of Colorado Springs, the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Department of Transportation. He said the task force plans to heed the results of the survey and have solid recommendations by the end of February for the best possible long-term plan.

More stormwater coverage here.

South Platte Basin: Irrigators hope HB12-1278 study will help curtail pumping curtailment

January 15, 2014
HB12-1278 study area via Colorado State University

HB12-1278 study area via Colorado State University

From KUNC (Grace Hood):

Many Northern Colorado wells were shutdown, or access to them was reduced, by a 2006 Colorado Supreme Court ruling. Other owners had to follow augmentation plans, spending thousands of dollars to replace water they’ve taken out of the South Platte River.

Prompting the study was the issue of high groundwater in some locations along the river. When some farmers weren’t allowed to pump, homeowners were starting to see flooding in their basements.

Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Institute spent more than a year holding stakeholder meetings and researching the 209-page report [.pdf] — much of it before last year’s flooding. The report found a connection between the lack of pumping and required augmentation plans. It also said the system helped to protect senior surface water rights from injury.

The study proposes reintroducing well pumping as a way to manage the issue in specific locations like Gilcrest and Sterling. Other CWI recommendations call for more data collection abilities for the Colorado Division of Water Resources and a basin wide entity focused on more flexible management of water rights…

Longtime farmer Bob Sakata poked at the augmentation policy requiring well owners to cover past depletion of surface water. He thinks the situation was improved by the September floodwater.

“We should not have to pay past depletion,” said Sakata to applause. “That is the biggest nonsense there is in the rule.”

Republican State Senator and gubernatorial hopeful Greg Brophy enthusiastically took on the issue of erasing all past well debt along the South Platte.

“I agree with you guys,” Brophy said, announcing plans to co-sponsor a bill with Democratic Rep. Randy Fisher to wipe out those past pumping depletions as of Sept. 12, 2013.

Scientists question just how much September’s floods filled up the South Platte’s aquifers.

Colorado Water Institute Director Reagan Waskom says that floodwater replenishment may be true for wells right next to the South Platte. But that’s not the case miles away from the river.

“The groundwater data outside of the river floodplain was not affected by the flood,” Waskom said.

Meantime, Colorado legislators will need to introduce other bills to implement the recommendations of the Colorado Water Institute.

Rep. Randy Fisher says study recommendations that require funding — like proposed pilot projects in Gilcrest and Sterling — will require follow up…

In the last decade, [Nursery owner Gene Kamerzell] says state management of water rights has become more political than scientific, and farmers are suffering.

“A lot of our friends have gone out of business,” Kamerzell said. “We have friends that have large operations that have relocated to New Mexico because the water policy in this state isn’t being managed right.”

Kamerzell hopes that the scientific report and the proposed legislation will help restore a different balance. Along with most things in Colorado water policy though, he knows it can take years — not days — to measure progress.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

El Paso County stormwater needs top $200 million according the CH2MHill study

January 3, 2014
Fountain Creek Watershed

Fountain Creek Watershed

From the McClatchey Tribune (Debbie Kelley) via The Pueblo Chieftain:

Nearly $200 million worth of stormwater system work is needed in unincorporated El Paso County — almost double the amount that county officials had estimated, according to an independent assessment released this week. The study emphasizes the need for teamwork in solving watershed issues, said Andre Brackin, county engineer.

“We’re only scratching the surface here,” Brackin said. “We’ve ignored drainage for decades, and now we’re dealing with multiple projects costing millions. The city and the county don’t do drainage maintenance very well. That’s the bigger issue. We need a regional approach of working together.”

Englewood-headquartered engineering firm CH2MHill examined 275 substandard bridges, culverts, water channels, storm drains and runoff storage facilities from a list the Pikes Peak Regional Stormwater Task Force compiled based on input from county staff. El Paso County commissioners received an executive summary of the findings. A final report will be issued Tuesday.

The company did a similar study of 288 stormwater projects within Colorado Springs boundaries after Mayor Steve Bach questioned the city and county’s estimated costs of repair.

CH2MHill validated 216 projects the county put forth. Several of the initial 275 projects were removed because they were duplicated on the city’s list, completed or not important enough. Other projects were added.

Ten have been identified as high priority, meaning there are pressing public health or safety issues or structural deficiencies.

On that list:

Security Creek Channel, which runs for 1 mile along U.S. 85-87 between Security and Widefield. The channel is not sufficient to contain a 100-year flood.

Fishers Canyon Channel, west of Interstate 25 near B Street. Banks are eroding, and water threatens residents.

Siferd Boulevard Culvert in the Park Vista area near Austin Bluffs and North Academy boulevards. Water flows across the roadway because there is no dedicated crossing for it.

The updated cost for the 216 projects is $190.6 million, up from the $102.9 million the county had calculated for 268 projects.

Of the total projects, 146 are within the Fountain Creek Watershed, which has regional impacts, said Mark Rosser, senior project manager with CH2MHill. Many extend into both city and county jurisdictions, he said, including Fountain Creek near the U.S. 24 bypass, Fountain Creek near the Spring Creek Confluence and Fountain Creek at Circle Drive.

The needs assessment does not take into account the areas of the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires, which experienced flooding this year as a result of the fires.

Commissioners said they thought the information was “a good start” toward figuring out how to best handle increasing problems with stormwater control.

“Stormwater is just not sexy,” said Commissioner Amy Lathen. “People wonder why we’re talking about drainage because they don’t have a problem at their home. The whole idea is to control the energy of that water flowing through our region.”

It’s important for people who live on higher ground to understand the consequences of not dealing with stormwater issues, said Commissioner Darryl Glenn, and that there is a return on the investment.

“When you’re trying to convince people upstream why they need to buy into this, if you’re not tying in the importance, it’s going to fall on deaf ears,” he said.

Colorado Springs City Councilman Val Snider, a member of the regional stormwater task force who attended Tuesday’s commissioners’ meeting, said regional needs have been discussed all along.

“It’s good to have things validated, and this shows great examples of the ways the city and county can address regional stormwater needs on a regional basis,” he said. “We need to combine the two studies and figure out the best way to plan to address those needs. Once we get that in line, we can figure out the funding.”

The task force was formed in 2012 out of a group of engineers, business leaders, community activists and elected city and county officials to find a way to pay for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of backlogged projects. The task force intends to release a final recommendation in February on how the community should proceed.

Several funding mechanisms have been proposed, including a plan by Bach to extend existing bond debt for another 20 years, which would not raise taxes or fees and would pay for flood control projects and road and bridge repairs.

Bach will meet with city and county leaders, task force members and mayors of neighboring towns on Jan. 16 to discuss options.

Another idea is to form a regional stormwater authority similar to the voter-approved Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, which uses tax money to fund road and bridge maintenance and construction.

More stormwater coverage here.

Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project: Episode One

December 28, 2013

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

Grand Junction city councillors pass resolution asking for stormwater mitigation on federal land

December 24, 2013
Grand Junction with the Grand Mesa in background

Grand Junction with the Grand Mesa in background

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Amy Hamilton):

Grand Junction city councilors are going with the flow when it comes to asking the federal government to pay for problems caused by stormwater runoff on public lands. Every other municipality in the Grand Valley already has or is planning to sign on with a similar resolution. Major storms lately that caused infrastructure damages have prompted the request.

In Grand Junction’s presentation during Wednesday night’s council meeting, Greg Trainor, Grand Junction’s public works and utility director, referred to a photograph of U.S. Highway 50 under several feet of standing water after a July downpour.

“The gist of the resolution is to ask the federal government for maintenance and repairs,” Trainor said.

Councilors should talk more about initiating stormwater mitigation projects, which could create local jobs, Councilor Jim Doody said.

“Knowing this resolution is going to Washington, D.C., it’s not going to get much, but it’s great that we’re doing it,” he said of the resolution.

About three quarters of the land in the Grand Valley is federally owned so the U.S. government should be held responsible when stormwater from those lands damages local infrastructure, Councilor Duncan McArthur said.

“Basically we’re just asking the federal government to obey the law they passed,” he said. “There should be some assistance there.”

More stormwater coverage here.

“Are you willing to really face up to the responsibilities of those water rights? — Jack Flobeck

December 23, 2013
The Code of Hammurabi via Wikipedia Commons

The Code of Hammurabi via Wikipedia Commons

Here’s a guest column about the east-west chasm in water planning in Colorado, from Jack Flobeck writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. Here’s an excerpt:

OK, so it’s your water, but the $64 million question is: Are you willing to really face up to the responsibilities of those water rights, and what do we mean by responsibilities? We were taught years ago that if you were a citizen, you had rights, but also responsibilities.

Solomon said, “There’s nothing new under the sun,” and wouldn’t you know, someone thought this problem through, over 4,000 years ago. I am indebted to local law historian, David Griffith, for suggesting my research into this subject.

The Code of Hammurabi was written in stone on an 8-foot black diorite column in what is now Baghdad and contains several concepts worth considering in 21st-century America. Consider:

No. 53 – If any one be too lazy to keep his dam in proper condition, and does not so keep it, if then the dam break and all the fields be flooded, then shall he in whose dam the break occurred be sold for money, and the money, and the money shall be paid to replace the corn which he has caused to be ruined.

No. 54 – If he be not able to replace the corn, then he and his possessions shall be divided among the farmers whose corn he has flooded.

No. 55 – If anyone open his ditches to water his crop, but is careless, and the water flood the field of his neighbor, then he must pay his neighbor corn for his loss.

No. 56 – If a man let in the water, and the water overflow the plantation of his neighbor, he shall pay ten gur of corn for every ten gan of land.”

Did Hammurabi nail responsibility; and are our irrigators with ‘first in time and first in right,’ ready to accept the consequences, which follow from most favored ownership? Is it now time, with imminent water shortages; to open the debate to include discussion of private, public, or combined public/private efforts to construct catch basins, rain harvesting culverts, and efficient localized storage for drought relief as well as for fire mitigation.

Colorado Springs: Stormwater, the need is there, opposing ideas about financing models

December 13, 2013
Fountain Creek

Fountain Creek

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

Colorado Springs City Council says Mayor Steve Bach may have jumped the gun calling his stormwater plan “the most sensible.”

Hold on, Council says in a letter sent to the mayor. The task force has not solidified its proposal and likely won’t do so until after the New Year. It’s too early to say which solution is the most sensible, said Val Snider, council member and task force member.

“It’s important to note that the Regional Stormwater Task Force has not made a recommendation about the best structure for governance or funding of the program, and does not anticipate making that decision for at least a couple of months,” the task force said in a Dec. 10 letter to Bach.

The Pikes Peak Regional Stormwater Task Force still is doing research on the laws and finances of various scenarios, Snider said.

Bach issued a press release Dec. 9 outlining his proposal on how to pay for the millions in backlogged drainage and flood control projects. He was reacting to a community survey the task force had done to gauge public interest in stormwater issues and funding. Respondents of the survey said they favored a regional approach, a dedicated funding source and they wanted some say in the list of projects to be built.

The task force may not have settled on a proposal, but it has narrowed down its discussion to two options: one models the Pike Peak Rural Transportation Authority, created by voters in Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Manitou Springs and Green Mountain Falls and collects 1 percent sales tax for transportation and transit improvements.

The other option is modeled after the Southeast Metro Stormwater Authority, which includes Centennial, Arapahoe County, and three water districts. The authority sets and collects fees, has a staff and oversees the projects for the region.

More stormwater coverage here.

Pikes Peak Regional Stormwater Task Force releases poll results

December 10, 2013
Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From KRDO (Emily Allen):

The task force conducted it’s first ever official poll to help brainstorm solutions for the region’s stormwater problems.

“We wanted to have some good, solid data on what citizens are thinking,” said Rachel Beck with the Pikes Peak Regional Stormwater Task Force. “We wanted to have some good solid data and not just be guessing.”

It worked with an independent group to survey 400 people in the Pikes Peak region.

  • Ninety-five percent say flood control is important.
  • Ninety-five percent say stormwater has had a serious impact on the community.
  • Some 59 percent say the current stormwater system is in poor or not so good condition.
  • “This is much stronger support than we would have expected,” said Beck…

    Beck said the poll is insightful, but there is still disagreement about how to solve the problem.

    “As you drill down to who manages the program and how we pay for it and the real specific things, there is less agreement on that and that’s where we are going to have to have a lot more conversation,” said Beck.

    Al Brody said he sat on a stormwater task force between 2005 and 2006. He is no longer on the task force, but he still wants the community’s stormwater issues resolved. He said tackling new projects is not the solution.

    “Emergency management becomes the key factor and not building and building and building bigger infrastructure to get the water out because 99.9 percent of the time you don’t need it, you need it for that one flash flood and it’s devastating but it will be devastating to people and property no matter what,” said Brody.

    The task force will use results from the poll to come up with solutions. Beck said any solution will be approved by voters before moving forward.

    More stormwater coverage here and here.

    The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District scores $175,000 from the CWCB

    December 10, 2013
    Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

    Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Matt Steiner):

    Larry Small of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District announced plans Monday to sponsor a study to identify potential projects stemming from storms and floods that hit the Pikes Peak region in July, August and September. Much of the damage along Fountain Creek came during flash floods in early July and Aug. 9, while that near Cheyenne Creek happened during torrential rains that occurred in El Paso County north to the Wyoming border.

    El Paso County’s John Chavez called the assessment a “fill in the gaps project” that will further point out post-Waldo Canyon fire weaknesses in the watersheds. The project is expected to run through the end of 2014, Small said at Monday’s monthly Waldo Canyon Fire Regional Recovery Group meeting. The fire ravaged the mountains west of Colorado Springs in June 2012, killing two people, burning more than 18,000 acres and destroying 347 homes.

    The Upper Fountain Creek and Cheyenne Creek Flood Restoration Master Plan comes more than six months after two studies in the Waldo Canyon burn scar and area watersheds were completed.

    Small said his organization was approved Friday for a $175,000 grant from Colorado Water Conservation Board. The entire assessment will cost $437,500, with the remainder of the money coming from the City of Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Colorado Springs Utilities and other area municipalities and organizations.

    Officials with CDOT, who also were at Monday’s meeting, highlighted two more projects along Highway 24 that they hope will keep debris flow off the roadway and alert responders before large floods strand motorists.

    CDOT plans video cameras, flow gauges, online monitoring and road closure gates.

    One set of monitoring equipment was installed the week of Nov. 12 about 1.5 miles up Waldo Canyon. That project cost $100,000, and CDOT said Monday that it has $200,000 more to spend on two more sites. Dave Watt of CDOT said they are looking at Williams Canyon and areas above Cascade as potential candidates. The United States Geologic Survey is working with CDOT on the project.

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

    #ColoradoRiver District: 2014 Water Resources Grant Program

    December 4, 2013
    Roaring Fork River

    Roaring Fork River

    From email from the Colorado River District (Martha Moore):

    Effective immediately, the Colorado River District is accepting grant applications for projects that protect, enhance or develop water resources within its 15-county region. (district map)

    Projects eligible for the grant program must achieve one or more of the following objectives:

    • develop a new water supply
    • improve an existing system
    • improve instream water quality
    • increase water use efficiency
    • reduce sediment loading
    • implement a watershed management action
    • control invasive riparian vegetation
    • protect pre-Colorado River Compact water rights (those in use before 1929)

    Previous successfully grant-funded projects have included the construction of new water storage, the enlargement of existing water storage or diversion facilities, rehabilitation of nonfunctioning or restricted water storage / delivery / diversion structures, implementation of water efficiency improvements and watershed enhancements.

    Successful grantees can receive up to a maximum of $150,000 (or approximately 25% of the total project cost; in the case of smaller projects, this percentage may be slightly higher) for their project. The total amount available for the 2014 competitive grant program is $250,000. The application deadline is Jan. 31, 2014.

    To access the Water Resources Grant Program application, instructions, guidelines, policies, and other details please visit

    More information can be obtained by contacting Dave Kanzer or Alesha Frederick at 970-945-8522 or by e-mail to

    More Colorado River District coverage here.

    Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

    November 24, 2013
    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):

    Water rights and cost issues still must be decided, but a study of the effectiveness of dams in Fountain Creek should be finalized in January. The study’s release was delayed a month because of a federal government shutdown, but the results have been reported for months.

    “There has been no study of costs and benefits,” David Mau, head of the Pueblo office of the U.S. Geological Survey told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday. The USGS did the study in conjunction with the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District. The local share of funds for the $500,000 study was provided through $300,000 paid by Colorado Springs Utilities as part of its Pueblo County 1041 permit conditions for the Southern Delivery System.

    The study looks at a 100-year storm centered over downtown Colorado Springs, and the effectiveness of dams or diversions at various locations along Fountain Creek. The most effective alternatives were a large dam on Fountain Creek or a series of detention ponds south of Colorado Springs. Mau said the number of ponds was not as important as the volume of water that could be stored.

    There were some snickers in the room when Mau pointed out that roads and railroad tracks would have to be moved to build a large dam approximately 10 miles from the confluence of Fountain Creek. But it was pointed out that a large flood also could relocate roads, railroad tracks and utility lines, as was the case in Northern Colorado in September. Pueblo County lost the Pinon Bridge in the 1999 flood.

    Mau said the amount of sediment trapped by a dam would amount to 2,500 truckloads, but said smaller ponds also would require extensive maintenance to remain effective.

    Board member Vera Ortegon asked Mau which alternative he would recommend.

    “We look at the science,” Mau said. “I could give you my personal opinion, but I won’t.”

    Meanwhile property owners continue to chip away at the Fryingpn-Arkansas Project debt. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    Property owners in nine counties will continue to make a dent in the federal debt for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project next year. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the agency in charge of repaying the debt, will collect another $6.5 million in property taxes next year, most of which goes toward reducing the debt. The board reviewed the budget Thursday and is expected to pass it on Dec. 5. The district began paying off $129 million in federal loans in 1982 on a 50-year loan. The amount represents the region’s share of the $585 million cost to build the Fryingpan- Arkansas Project. About $36 million of the debt will remain at the end of the year, Executive Director Jim Broderick told the board Thursday.

    The district collects 0.944 mills in property taxes in parts of Bent, Chaffee, Crowley, El Paso, Fremont, Kiowa, Otero, Pueblo and Prowers counties. Of that, 0.9 mills goes toward federal repayment and the rest toward operating expenses.

    It also will collect $5.3 million in pass-through revenues from El Paso County to repay the federal government for building the Fountain Valley Conduit.

    The district also collects funds through sale of Fry-Ark water, fees and grants.

    The district’s operating budget is $2.24 million next year, with an additional $1.07 million in capital projects planned.

    The enterprise budget, paid mostly by user fees, totals $2.8 million, which includes $880,000 in capital projects.

    The district is responsible for paying the Bureau of Reclamation to operate and maintain the project. The district also allocates water to cities and farms, and provides legal protection of Fry­Ark water rights.

    More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.

    Fountain Creek: Public prefers regional stormwater solution

    November 4, 2013
    Fountain Creek Watershed

    Fountain Creek Watershed

    From the Colorado Springs Business Journal (Marija B. Vader):

    The 50 people who attended a public stormwater meeting Thursday unequivocally endorsed a regional–not city-wide–approach to the stormwater problem in El Paso County…

    The next two public meetings will be held: Nov. 6, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Cheyenne Mountain High School Cafeteria, 1200 Cresta Road, and Nov. 19, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Leon Young Service Center, 1521 S. Hancock Expressway.

    The meetings include a focus-group discussion led by a moderator to ensure accurate and in-depth data from attendees. Representatives of all three city and county groups will be in attendance.

    More stormwater coverage here.

    Fountain Creek: CH2M’s stormwater assessment ready

    October 25, 2013
    Colorado Springs circa 1910 via

    Colorado Springs circa 1910 via

    From the Colorado Springs Business Journal (Rebecca Tonn):

    Earlier this year, the Regional Storm Water Task Force presented details of the area’s stormwater mitigation needs.

    On Oct. 9, engineering firm CH2M Hill released its comprehensive City of Colorado Springs Stormwater Needs Assessment to Mayor Steve Bach and City Council. CH2M Hill was contracted by the city to give a third-party overview on the scope and depth of the task force’s stormwater assessment. The city released the report Tuesday, Oct. 15.

    The full report can be viewed online at the city’s website.

    More stormwater coverage here.

    Springs’ City Council hopes to kickstart a stormwater department, public meetings planned by El Paso County

    October 22, 2013
    Flooding in Colorado Springs June 6, 2012

    Flooding in Colorado Springs June 6, 2012

    From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    In a letter to Mayor Steve Bach, City Council asserts its budgetary authority under the City Charter and code, saying, “It is what the Charter expects us to do and what the citizens of our city have elected us to do.”

    In the past City Attorney Chris Melcher, hired by Bach and approved by Council, has said Council has very limited power to override a mayoral veto involving the budget.

    Besides asking Bach to produce more detail for his proposed 2014 budget, the three-page letter, signed by all nine members of Council, also states two major changes that Council plans to introduce:

    — Council will be proposing a Stormwater appropriation department dedicated to stormwater operations and maintenance.
    — Council will be proposing a supplemental budget appropriation ordinance out of the 2013 fund balance of $2 million dollars to the Stormwater appropriation department to begin work during this fiscal year on some of the stormwater issues from the 2013 summer flood.

    Council also asserts its authority to adopt specific line items, which Melcher has said isn’t allowed unless they pertain to “major legislative budget determinations.”

    Meanwhile the El Paso County stormwater task force is holding public meetings about the stormwater issue. Here’s a report from Pam Zubeck writing for the Colorado Springs Independent:

    Three public meetings are being hosted by the Stormwater Task Force, a regional panel, that’s been meeting for more than a year on the topic. The meetings, in collaboration with the Colorado Springs City Council and the El Paso County Board of Commissioners, will seek feedback on stormwater management and discuss recent management proposals.

    The format for the meetings will be oriented toward group discussion, the task force says in a news release, to try to get as much input as possible.

    The meeting schedule:

    Thursday, Oct. 24, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
    Conservation and Environment Center, 2855 Mesa Road

    Wednesday, Oct. 30, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
    Leon Young Service Center, 1521 S. Hancock Expressway

    Wednesday, Nov. 6, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
    Cheyenne Mountain High School, 1200 W. Cheyenne Road

    More coverage from J. Adrian Stanley writing for the Colorado Springs Independent. Here’s an excerpt:

    Many area leaders and volunteers gathered at City Hall following the meeting to lambaste the mayor’s plan. Among the gripes were that it: would create debt; wasn’t vetted through a public process; wouldn’t fund stormwater regionally; and would only address the problem in the short-term. Proponents of the regional plan stressed that stormwater should be treated differently than other capital needs because “water knows no boundaries.”

    “We don’t have any desire in the county to take power away from the city,” County Commissioner Amy Lathen said.

    Following the meeting, though, Bach explained to the Independent that he was concerned with more than power. He believed his plan would more holistically address the city’s capital needs, since his proposed bonds would also help beautify parks, fix roads and bridges, and replace police cars. And, he noted, it would do so without a tax increase.

    “To me that’s the last resort,” he said. “We may get there, [but] I believe we can bridge this over the next half-decade and demonstrate that we can be efficient and effective redeploying existing dollars so that then, if we need to ask for a tax, we’ve got the confidence of the public.”

    Lathen countered that Bach was being unrealistic.

    “I don’t want [a tax or fee], either,” she said. ” … We’ll look at absolutely any possibility out there, including what [Bach] has proposed. But we have to be honest about what we’re looking at, and we have to be honest about the scope of this problem and our responsibilities. … We have identified over a half billion dollars in issues, in this case, in the city alone. We don’t have that in our budgets. We don’t have it.”

    More stormwater coverage here and here.

    Colorado Springs’ Mayor Bach includes $25 million for stormwater projects in his 2014 budget

    October 17, 2013
    Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater in 2011 -- photo via The Pueblo Chieftain

    Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater in 2011 — photo via The Pueblo Chieftain

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach says his 2014 budget contains $25 million for stormwater projects. The amount breaks down to $9 million for new construction, $7.2 million in pending grants and $8.8 million in emergency funds related to fires. A list provided by city staff shows that $14.25 million would go to high-priority projects identified in the recent stormwater needs assessment by CH2MHill.

    “The City of Colorado Springs is not standing idly by when it comes to our stormwater needs as we head into 2014. The $25 million we anticipate spending in the next year includes numerous projects identified as high priorities in the recent CH2MHill Stormwater Needs Assessment. We are finding efficiencies and repurposing dollars wherever possible to address this critical need in our city,” Bach said in a press release.

    Bach is at odds with Colorado Springs City Council, El Paso County and communities on a regional task force over the approach to stormwater. The mayor wants to redirect existing funding to cover needs, while the task force wants a long-term, sustainable approach.

    Pueblo County commissioners have asked Colorado Springs to identify projects that help protect Pueblo from flood impacts as part of an ongoing inquiry into conditions agreed to in a 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System.

    Meanwhile Colorado Springs Utilities is proposing rate hikes for 2014. Here’s a report from Abbie Burke writing for Here’s an excerpt:

    …the rate hike for water was approved back in 2012.

    “We already had approved a 10 percent increase for water services,” Bill Cherrier, Chief Planning and Finance Officer for CSU, said.

    The water rate increase was approved to help pay for the Southern Delivery System.

    “That is our new water system to provide more water supply and redundant water supply to the community,” Cherrier said…

    “When we look at the residential bill it’s expected to go up about 4.75 percent in the next year,” Cherrier said.

    For the average customer, with a $200 bill, that’s about $10. The rate increase will go before city council for approval at the end of November. A public rate hearing will be held November 12, which will be open for comments.

    More stormwater coverage here.

    Greeley to hike stormwater rates 7% for 2014 for additional manpower

    October 16, 2013
    Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water

    Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water

    From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

    Greeley residents will pay an average of 39 cents more per month in stormwater fees next year, thanks to a 7 percent hike that must be approved by the city council each year.

    Even so, the city is about $50.4 million behind in stormwater projects that need attention, said Joel Hemesath, director of Greeley Public Works. Part of the backlog is because the city didn’t implement a stormwater fee until 2002, so stormwater for a time was competing for funding against other infrastructure needs.

    When the city began the stormwater fee, officials intended to raise rates by 7 percent each year, but rates were frozen in 2010 and ’11 because of the recession, Hemesath said.

    The average fee for residential customers next year will rise from about $5.61 per month to $6 per month. The average for commercial users will rise by $10.95 to $167.06 per month, and industrial users will pay $8.63 more, at $131.94 per month.

    The increase brings Greeley’s residential stormwater rates on par with Adams County, with the city roughly in the middle when comparing what residents pay other governments, according to Public Works data.

    Residents in Pueblo pay an average of $6.25 per month, and Loveland residents pay about $10.39 per month. Arvada residents pay about $4.30 per month, and residents of Littleton pay about $2.50 per month.

    The increase will garner an additional $263,000 to help pay for a second crew of stormwater workers to be hired by the city next year, an additional stormwater engineer and the cost of the maintenance work they will do on detention ponds and stormwater pipes, Hemesath said.

    He said the salaries of the new employees are also helped by a bolstered 2014 budget, which Greeley officials increased due to an expected rise in revenue.

    The additional crew will be available to work on the $800,000 worth of projects budgeted in the stormwater fund next year. They will work to design a project to upsize existing stormwater pipes from Sanborn Park down to the Poudre River, install a stormwater pipe before crews begin construction on East 20th Street, and install some filters that clean collected stormwater before it’s released back into the river.

    Ten projects, scheduled for 2015-22, are budgeted at $15.7 million, with the actual construction of the Sanborn Park to Poudre project at a cost of $9.6 million. That doesn’t count the 14 unfunded projects that total $50.4 million, bringing Greeley’s total future capital improvement needs in coming years to $75.9 million.

    More stormwater coverage here and here.

    Steamboat Springs: Stormwater enterprise not in the cards

    October 15, 2013
    Steamboat Springs

    Steamboat Springs

    From Steamboat Today (John F. Russell):

    A task force created this year to study the stormwater needs in Steamboat has concluded a new fee or utility shouldn’t be created at this time to help cover the cost of maintenance and upgrades.

    Instead, the task force is recommending that for the time being, the city’s stormwater upgrades can be covered out of its own budget by hiring more personnel and dedicating more equipment and materials to maintain the infrastructure…

    The demand for the millions of dollars worth of stormwater improvements in Steamboat was the result of the city never having a comprehensive plan to keep up and expand its current system, City Manager Deb Hinsvark said as the task force was being created in January.

    Last year, the city tapped Short Elliott Hendrickson, a firm of engineers, architects, planners and scientists based in St. Paul, Minn., to perform a $180,000 infrastructure study of Steamboat’s bridges, culverts and dams.

    The firm recommended that the city invest at least $17 million in new capital projects to upgrade its stormwater system and help manage future flooding.

    The consultant also found Steamboat’s stormwater infrastructure included “aging drainage infrastructure, much of which is in need of replacement immediately or within 5 to 10 years.”

    The task force of 13 community members and five representatives from the city staff was created to help the city plan for the future.

    Since February, they usually met once every two weeks and became experts in the city’s stormwater master plan.

    “They deserve tremendous kudos for all the time they put into it,” Beall said about the task force, adding the discussion was robust and technical at times.

    More stormwater coverage here and here.

    Fountain Creek: ‘We don’t think sustainable funds are there through a sales tax’ — John Cassiani

    October 12, 2013
    Fountain Creek

    Fountain Creek

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Businesses, not just government, want to see a higher level of commitment to stormwater funding in Colorado Springs. “We’re looking for an ongoing commitment, with a dedicated funding source that’s stable,” said John Cassiani, a real estate consultant who has served on El Paso County’s stormwater task force.

    “When you look across the state and see that we are the largest city in Colorado without a stormwater fee, we need one,” Cassiani said. “We don’t think sustainable funds are there through a sales tax.”

    The task force wants to base assessments on square footage of property creating either a separate authority or a stormwater district within the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District. The assessments would appear on property tax bills to avoid the kinds of non-payment issues associated with Colorado Springs’ stormwater enterprise when it collected fees from 2007-09. Communities would sign on, agreeing to maintain at least the current level of funding for maintenance. The money collected would be spent on critical projects that cross political boundaries, but returned to communities proportionately over time.

    Colorado Springs City Council and El Paso County commissioners have voted to support the plan, and to gather public input prior to making a suggestion of how to proceed.

    No set amounts for stormwater funding have been set, or a timetable developed for when projects would be constructed, City Council President Keith King said.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Mayor Steve Bach calls his plan to address flooding a “Storm Water Hybrid.” He proposes regional cooperation through an authority managed by Colorado Springs.

    “We have the lion’s share of responsibility and I am not comfortable with the city delegating that to another entity,” Bach said.

    Bach plans to use current funding levels on Springs Community Improvements Program bonds that were approved by voters in 1998-99.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    While the number of Colorado Springs stormwater projects dropped, cost estimates rose for the remaining projects in an engineering report released Friday. The CH2MHill report was ordered by Mayor Steve Bach, who was alarmed that the city’s stormwater backlog costs apparently rose from $500 million in 2009 to almost $688 million in last year’s estimate by a stormwater task force. The new amount was about $535 million.

    The engineers started by looking at a list of 282 projects within Colorado Springs, as well as reviewing stormwater documents going back 40 years, project manager Mark Rosser explained. Those projects were part of the task force’s larger study that identified $850 million in backlog for all of El Paso County, as well as nearly $11 million in operation and maintenance needs.

    The consultants removed 44 projects that had been constructed, duplicated or that no longer existed. One of those was a $138 million project to replace all corrugated metal pipe drains in the city.

    The remaining projects were rated according to urgency, and in some cases broken out into multiple projects.

    “We were dealing with long reaches of streams,” Rosser said.

    From that list of 239 projects, about 44 were given high priority, with a total cost of $162 million — more than twice the amount critical projects were estimated at in 2009.

    The longer Colorado Springs waits to begin addressing projects, the worse things will get, he added.

    “The work doesn’t consider what happened in September and October.”

    CH2MHill is working on a similar estimate for El Paso County, expected to be completed in December.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Pueblo County commissioners Terry Hart and Sal Pace don’t want to wade into El Paso County politics, but would like to see tangible results on protecting Pueblo from the ravages of Fountain Creek.

    “What are you doing today to protect us and how can we rectify that?” Hart asked El Paso County and Colorado Springs officials at a meeting this week.

    The commissioners want to hold Colorado Springs to its commitment to help control stormwater made while seeking federal and county permits for the Southern Delivery System.

    Pace, who represented Pueblo in the state House at the time, has always been critical of the decision by Colorado Springs City Council in 2009 to abolish the stormwater enterprise.

    While most of council at that time — just one of the nine members sat on the board then — thought voters meant to end what tax crusader Doug Bruce called a “rain tax,” others found the message unclear. That does nothing to help Pueblo, which will spend about $200,000 to clean up after the latest downpour in September.

    The city also must convince the Army Corps of Engineers to repair its damaged reinforcement of the bank at 13th Street, where a freeway interchange, railroad tracks and flooding are threatened.

    Hart wants county staff to review which of the projects are designed to protect Pueblo as flows cross the county line.

    “I’m concerned about the patience level of our community,” Hart said. “It is difficult, given what has occurred. The amount of funding over several years seems to have been drained.”

    Pace also is concerned about how recent accounting of stormwater projects has changed in Colorado Springs after the large wildfires denuded huge swaths of landscape.

    “The two fires create more of an issue, but it’s been an issue before,” Pace said. “We had large trees uprooted here, and smaller rain events are creating larger flood events. Whatever path is chosen, we have to know it will be successful. There is a lot of skepticism in Pueblo.”

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

    Fountain Creek: ‘We certainly have to plan for more than a 10-20 year event’ — Dennis Hisey

    October 11, 2013
    Fountain Creek Watershed via the Colorado Springs Gazette

    Fountain Creek Watershed via the Colorado Springs Gazette

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A special district formed to improve Fountain Creek should be looking at what it would take to build a large flood control dam, officials from two counties agreed Thursday.

    “I don’t think it’s too early to begin looking at a dam, when you look at the events up north,” Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace said during a workshop with El Paso County and Colorado Springs officials.

    Smaller retention ponds in Boulder and Larimer counties were overrun by the force of water from 500-year storms, while larger dams in the Denver area held, Pace said.

    “There is a lesson to be learned. Do we need a large flood control structure on Fountain Creek?” Pace asked.

    “In my view, that has to be driven by science and the Fountain Creek district needs to be involved in it,” said Dennis Hisey, an El Paso County commissioner. “We certainly have to plan for more than a 10-20 year event.”

    The U.S. Geological Survey is completing a study for the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District that shows a large dam is equally effective as 44 small retention ponds.

    The cost of building and operating either type of system remains an unknown.

    “I hope our next step (for the Fountain Creek district) is to look at the cost of each of the options,” said Terry Hart, chairman of the Pueblo County commission.

    “If an event (like last month’s Northern Colorado storms) hit us next season, it would be incredibly devastating to all of our jurisdictions,” Hart said.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Army Corps of Engineers is being asked to repair a project it completed just four years ago to stabilize a critical portion of bank along Fountain Creek in Pueblo. Repairs made in 2009 washed out during a Sept. 13 storm that also damaged other portions of Fountain Creek throughout the city of Pueblo. The Corps repairs would be in addition to an estimated $200,000 of work by the city in the Fountain Creek channel.

    “I don’t know how long the process would be,” said Daryl Wood, Pueblo stormwater coordinator. “We’ll rely on the Corps to rebuild the embankment.”

    The washout occurred on about 165 feet of a wire-wrapped levee at 13th Street. The area is critical, because the bank is just a few feet away from Union Pacific railroad tracks and a few yards from the 13th Street interchange of Interstate 25. The railroad has been notified.

    While the Fountain Creek levee protects the Downtown area, washouts could affect its effectiveness at that point. Fountain Creek hits and departs the bank at a 90-degree angle under the current alignment. The Corps would have to decide if the alignment of the waterway could be changed through that section.

    Prior to 1999, Fountain Creek flowed parallel to the area. Some large boulders set to protect the 13th Street area washed out in subsequent storms, and the wire-wrapped rip-rap that replaced them washed out this year.

    The Eighth Street Bridge is located just downstream and several large trees were left strewn in the channel after the Sept. 13 storms, creating the potential for clogging the waterway as well.

    “When the storm happened on Sept. 13, there were 2.8 inches of rain above Pueblo in a 24-hour period,” said Will Trujillo, levee safety program manager for the Corps. “In spot locations, there were 12-13 inches of rain.

    When we receive that type of storm we notify any public sponsor in that section.”

    The sponsor in this case is the city of Pueblo, which now has the job of detailing the damage to the project.

    The Corps will schedule an inspection, determine the extent of damage and make any needed repairs, Trujillo said.

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

    Stormwater: Springs’ Mayor Bach has proposed a combination of debt and redirected general fund cash to fund needs

    October 10, 2013
    Fountain Creek Watershed

    Fountain Creek Watershed

    From (Steve Folsom):

    Key facts of an independent study requested by Colorado Springs Mayor, Steve Bach were presented Wednesday. The independent engineering firm CH2M Hill was called in for a second opinion after a local storm water task force came back with storm estimates showing a jump from 500 to around $800 million regionally.

    The independent audit looks only at the Colorado Springs portion of the storm water needs. It shows there are over 225 projects that need to happen totaling nearly $535 million. That is $152 million decrease from the report earlier in the year, but it also shows there are $162 million in projects that need to be treated with urgency, which is an $80 million increase. It is a total that is down, but also a need for more cash to quickly get moving on repairs and improvements.

    Ideas on how to pay for it are causing debate. Mayor Bach unexpectedly presented and idea to combine borrowed money from bonds with funds redirected from the city’s general fund. There are many other elected leaders from the region who want to hold town meetings and discuss with voters the possibility of asking for a storm water property fee or tax on the ballot.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Mayor Steve Bach’s proposal to roll stormwater into the city’s other capital needs got a cold shoulder Wednesday from members of a task force that has worked for more than a year — and from Pueblo County.

    Bach laid out his plan for funding critical stormwater needs to City Council, county commissioners and nearby communities following the unveiling of a study that prioritizes projects. “We’ve already stubbed our toe once on stormwater,” Bach said. “The worst thing that can happen is that we get turned down again (by voters). We’ve got to get it right.”

    He proposed spending $100 million over the next five years, lumping it into a $175 million plan that also would fund streets, roads, bridges, public safety vehicles and parks. It would take 20 years to pay off the bonds. While the bond issue would require a vote, there would not be a tax increase since payments would be similar to the current bond structure.

    Bach also made an overture to create a regional stormwater authority, but said it should be funded through contributions from individual communities, funded proportionately and managed by Colorado Springs. He also said the city could review progress and determine if more funding would be needed at the end of the five-year period.

    But other public officials criticized Bach’s plan for failing to address regional issues and providing a stable, sustainable source of funding. “I’m alarmed by the mayor’s proposal, which seems to be a stopgap way of funding the needs. It kicks the can down the road,” said Ray Petros, Pueblo County’s water attorney. He said it does not fulfill the promises of Colorado Springs Utilities to have a stormwater funding mechanism in place when it obtained a 1041 permit from Pueblo County for the Southern Delivery System.

    “We are willing to listen to constituents and we want to hear from the community,” said Keith King, council president.

    The council and El Paso County commissioners are planning three town hall meetings to discuss stormwater before finalizing funding plans. The intention is to allow county voters the chance to approve a tax, fee or some other way to fund stormwater by 2014.

    But the task force members emphasized no method has been selected. No dollar figure or timetable for capital projects has been developed either. Commissioner Amy Lathen called Bach’s proposal “uninformed,” because the mayor has not been meeting with the task force.

    Commissioner Dennis Hisey, who serves on the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, said regional cooperation is needed rather than Bach’s approach. “Stormwater starts high in the watershed

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

    September floods leave reaches of the pre-flood St. Vrain channel high and dry #COflood

    October 6, 2013
    New Saint Vrain river channel after the September 2013 floods -- photo via the Longmont Times-Call

    New Saint Vrain River channel after the September 2013 floods — photo via the Longmont Times-Call

    From the Longmont Times-Call (Scott Rochat):

    When the St. Vrain flooded in mid-September, it not only devastated communities, it redrew its own lines. West of town. East of town. Even at spots inside Longmont. It even brought out the eraser from time to time, not just drawing a new course but wiping out the old one.

    “Behind Harvest Junction, the old channel actually filled in,” said Longmont public works director Dale Rademacher, noting the shopping center in southeastern Longmont.

    Putting it back won’t be so easy. The city estimates that would take $80 million, but that’s still a fluid number, so to speak. A lot depends not just on the difficulty of the project, but the will of federal authorities, including the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

    FEMA already has said it will look at the river section by section when deciding which restoration plans should get funding. The Corps, meanwhile, is in talks with Longmont to decide which pieces of the river truly need to be restored. Rivers do move, after all.

    “If we think we can get the river back into its channel with a reasonable amount of effort, and the Corps says it makes sense, we’ll do that,” Rademacher said. “If the Corps says ‘Sorry, folks, that looks like a reasonably safe channel,’ we’ll start planning around that, too.”[...]

    The diversions and flooding along the whole western stretch — aided by dam breaches and old gravel pits — have made this area a priority in Longmont’s discussions with the Army Corps of Engineers. Near Lyons, there are pipelines that need to be inspected and put back into service. The new riverway not only cuts off several irrigation ditches, it also puts several neighborhoods further downstream into a new flood plain — most notably The Greens and Champion Greens near Airport Road and the Village near Golden Ponds.

    “Our need and our ability (to restore the river) varies from point to point in the course of the channel,” Rademacher said. “West of Longmont, where it’s undermining pipelines and threatening neighborhoods, it’s pretty important.”

    From The Pueblo Chieftain:

    Pueblo will spend about $200,000 over the next three months cleaning up the mess left on Fountain Creek from storms to the north in El Paso County last month. Damage to an embankment on the city’s side detention pond and dangerous trees in the channel are the biggest problems, said Earl Wilkinson, public works director.

    From The Greeley Tribune (Jim Rydbom):

    Bit by bit, the bundles of flood debris spread across yards and streets in Weld County are getting picked up. But it will be a while before a cluster of tree limbs isn’t found twisted into a fence somewhere.

    Trevor Jiricek, director of Weld County Environmental Health and General Services, said the county has handed out about 3,200 vouchers for residents to take debris to the landfill. The vouchers are unlimited and good for one pickup truck full of debris each. Jiricek said the county worked out deals with 10 different facilities, including A1 Organics and two places to dispose of tires.

    Jiricek said he’s received positive feedback for the vouchers, which are available through the Weld County planning department and at the FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers in Greeley and Milliken.

    Farmers and ranchers with damaged and debris-filled properties are running into frustrations with the government shutdown, as they could be eligible for financial help through federal disaster loan options or the Emergency Conservation Program. The bulk of those programs, though, require consulting with the Farm Service Agency office before doing repairs, and the FSA is a federal office.

    Jiricek said the county doesn’t have the resources to clean up everyone’s private property, but officials are in the process of contracting a company to clean up the county’s right-of-ways. When that happens, he said the county will notify residents affected by the flood who are near those right-of-ways, and they can put debris out to be collected.

    Jiricek said it’s important only those affected by the flood take advantage of that service, as the county depends on reimbursement from FEMA for flood-related debris only, and the costs of removing debris could go up astronomically if people start using it as a way to get rid of trash.

    Immediately after the flood, Jiricek said more than a half-dozen county employees worked to talk to residents about their needs and disseminate the vouchers.

    “I feel like they’ve gotten out there,” he said of the vouchers.

    ‘In my experience, you don’t ever get a perfect solution’ — Diane Mitsch Bush #COflood

    October 5, 2013
    Flooded well site September 2013 -- Denver Post

    Flooded well site September 2013 — Denver Post

    From Colorado Public News (David O. Williams):

    Colorado state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush says she plans to take up the issue of water contamination and greater setbacks for oil and gas wells from waterways in the wake of this month’s devastating flooding. Mitsch Bush, a Democrat representing Routt and Eagle counties on the Western Slope, told Colorado Public News new rules need to be considered for keeping drilling away from rivers and streams. The approach is similar to the state’s new setback rules for homes and public buildings, which went into effect Aug. 1. Current rules prohibit drilling within 300 feet of streams that provides municipal drinking water – extending five miles upstream of the water intake – but that setback doesn’t apply to bodies of water in general…

    Rivers across northeastern Colorado – including the South Platte and St. Vrain – have been inundated with a variety of contaminants from flooding that started Sept. 11. Mitsch Bush said she is concerned about potential health impacts of the 890 barrels of oil that regulators confirmed have spilled in the flood zone.

    “Any oil, any condensate, has the BTEX [benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene] component and many others,” said Mitsch Bush. “All of those are very contaminating in a water body in relatively small portions. I think it’s really important that we don’t minimize what’s in there, but at the same time that we don’t have a huge overreaction either.”[...]

    Asked about the potential for new setback laws or rules as a result of the floods, a spokesman for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry trade group, said their continued focus is on recovery, safety and getting production back online.

    “Once flooding began, over 1,900 wells were shut in,” the group’s Director of Policy and External Affairs Doug Flanders said in an email, referring to the organization’s website for shut-in procedures. “To date, this has resulted in less than 1 percent of the wells having any isolated incidents due to debris-filled flood waters…

    “In my experience, you don’t ever get a perfect solution,” she said, “but you get a better, a good, a sufficient solution if you can work with all the groups and sit down, talk about it, work together and see what you can come up with.”

    More oil and gas coverage here and here.

    ‘When the big one [flood] comes, there will be added damage from growth in Colorado Springs’ — Sal Pace

    October 5, 2013
    Cherry Creek Flood August 31, 1933 -- photo via the Denver Public Library

    Cherry Creek Flood August 31, 1933 — photo via the Denver Public Library

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A large dam on Fountain Creek is needed to prevent the kind of damage from flooding witnessed in Northern Colorado last week, a county commissioner says.

    “When the big one comes, there will be added damage from growth in Colorado Springs and the burn scars of two large fires. The flooding will be worse than ever,” Commissioner Sal Pace said Thursday.

    “We only have to look at the tragic events in Boulder and Larimer counties, in Lyons and Estes Park, to see what could happen.”

    Floods, some rated as 500-year storms, overcame numerous small dams. Larger dams, such as Bear Creek and Cherry Creek reservoirs in the Denver Metro area, held up, he pointed out.

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

    Fountain Creek: The El Paso County Board of Commissioners approve stormwater regional solution resolution

    October 4, 2013
    Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater in 2011 -- photo via The Pueblo Chieftain

    Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater in 2011 — photo via The Pueblo Chieftain

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Matt Steiner):

    The Board of County Commissioners voted on the resolution Tuesday, passing it by a 3-2 vote. Lathen said Darryl Glenn and Peggy Littleton cast the dissenting votes, noting that they wanted to wait until an Oct. 9 presentation by Mayor Steve Bach and consulting firm CH2M Hill before they gave their OK.

    The City Council approved the same resolution 7-1 on Sept. 24. Helen Collins opposed it and council member Andy Pico was absent.

    Bach has opposed the resolutions while awaiting the consultant’s input.

    The commissioners had voted unanimously to approve a resolution in February, but the City Council waited until April after Bach insisted that a private study needed to be done. The mayor also said in February that the decision needed to wait for the new council, which was seated in April.

    The outgoing council defied the mayor’s request and passed a regional stormwater resolution as one of its last actions. Scott Hente, the outgoing council president, said after the April 9 vote, “Stormwater is not politics. Stormwater is floods coming into your home. This is something that’s important to the community,” he said.

    Lathen echoed Hente’s statement Wednesday when asked why the city and county needed to pass the recent resolutions after both government bodies had already voted in the joint effort. The commissioner stressed that this time, City Council and the BOCC each endorsed the same plan.

    “This one is the same resolution signed by both bodies, and we’re excited about that,” Lathen said.

    From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    For more than a year, local officials have been trying to figure out what to do about drainage. The long-overdue debate has centered on whether it’s best for Colorado Springs to go its own way, as Mayor Steve Bach wishes, or whether all agencies in the watershed need to cooperate to tackle the problem, which by one estimate will cost nearly $1 billion.

    Next week, things will come to a head when Bach unveils his long-awaited proposal, along with a report from consultant CH2MHill about whether the city’s projects list alone really totals some $700 million.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Apparently, Fountain Creek is a moving target when it comes to Bureau of Reclamation environmental impact studies. Buried in the documents regarding the Arkansas Valley Conduit and master storage contract for Lake Pueblo released in August is Reclamation’s response to a concern raised by Pueblo County last year.

    In a Nov. 30, 2012, letter, Pueblo County’s water attorney Ray Petros asked about the discrepancy of flows on Fountain Creek between the EIS for Southern Delivery System and the conduit when it comes to Colorado Springs’ repeal of its stormwater enterprise in 2009.

    Petros also asked if Reclamation intended to reopen the SDS environmental study in light of the stormwater repeal, especially looking at the cumulative impacts of both projects.

    Reclamation responded that it would not open a new investigation of Fountain Creek flows because additional storage contracts for some El Paso County cities that are tied into the conduit EIS would have only negligible impact on Fountain Creek.

    With regard to the discrepancy in flows on Fountain Creek — they are reduced by 12 percent in the conduit-master contract study — Reclamation responded that different time frames were used. The SDS study looked at 2006 and compared it to 2046 projections, while the conduit study looked at 2010 and compared it to 2070.

    The lack of a Colorado Springs stormwater enterprise is of concern to Pueblo County commissioners because it was in existence when a previous board issued a 1041 land-use permit in 2009. Commissioners are evaluating Colorado Springs compliance with 1041 conditions.

    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District is preparing a federal lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation over its lack of action on a request to reopen the EIS for SDS because of the stormwater issue.

    More Fountain Creek 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.

    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


    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.

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

    September 3, 2013


    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.

    Fountain Creek: Pueblo County DA asking the state Supreme Court to overturn the July appeals court decision

    August 29, 2013


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A dispute over water quality is heading to the state Supreme Court. District Attorney Jeff Chostner today is asking the state Supreme Court to overturn a July 18 appeals court decision that Pueblo District Judge Victor Reyes erred in ordering the state to redo its assessment of impacts of the Southern Delivery System on Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River.

    Reyes issued his decision last year, siding with former District Attorney Bill Thiebaut in finding that the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission ignored its own standards and accepted a “gut feeling” methodology in issuing a federal permit required for SDS.

    Attorney John Barth of Hygiene, who has represented both Chostner and Thiebaut in the case, argued that a scientific methodology, including a numeric standard is needed. He argued increased flows on Fountain Creek and changes in the flows of the Arkansas River through Pueblo could increase pollutants like selenium and sediment.

    Colorado Springs attorney David Robbins presented counterarguments that water quality issues would be addressed as they arose through an adaptive management plan outlined in the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement for the project.

    During a deposition for a December 2010 hearing, the state employee who performed the analysis for the SDS impacts said he relied on a “gut feeling” in his assessment of impacts.

    In the brief that is being filed today, Barth argues that selenium levels through Pueblo will double or triple under SDS changes, yet the state determined there would be “no degradation.”

    At the December 2010 hearing, Robbins and Colorado Springs Utilities officials made the case that impacts from SDS won’t show up for years, so numeric standards now would not be applicable.

    Reyes ordered the commission to hold new hearings and develop a permit based on scientific standards. A panel of three appeals court judges rejected the Reyes decision, largely on procedural grounds because he did not do a “rigorous investigation” of claims.

    Meanwhile, monsoon rains have caused a good deal of damage to Colorado Springs’ stormwater facilities. Here’s a report from Bill Folsom writing for

    Emergency repairs are necessary to the Colorado Springs storm water system following last weeks unusually heavy rain storm. Storm drains have been exposed, there is damage to detention ponds, and erosion has compromised infrastructure.

    Storm water mangers have been running the numbers and calculate nearly four inches of rain fell in just hours on the far north side of the city. The amount equals what they call a 200 year storm. “We do not design for a 200 year storm. We’re up to 100 years,” said Colorado Springs Storm Water Manger, Tim Mitros, “So this was a rarity and our storm sewer system was just totally overwhelmed.” The price tag for the damage to the storm water system is approaching one million dollars.

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


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