#Colorado Springs pays first $10M to Fountain Creek district — The Pueblo Chieftain

Fountain Creek
Fountain Creek

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Utilities presented the first of five $10 million payments to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District this week.

The check was actually for $9,578,817, in order to reflect prepayment of $600,000 and interest payments.

The payment of $50 million to the district is a condition of the Pueblo County 1041 agreement with Pueblo County, reached in 2009 for the construction of the Southern Delivery System.

The district has plans to spend about $2.5 million this year, as it continues studies of where the best sites for dams or detention ponds are located. The money could be used to leverage funds for large projects such as a dam.

The second $10 million payment is due Jan. 15.

The money is to be used for Fountain Creek flood control projects, including a possible dam, that have a primary, not incidental benefit to Pueblo.

The release of the money was made possible by the settlement of stormwater control issues that arose after Colorado Springs abolished its stormwater enterprise in 2009. That agreement requires Colorado Springs to spend an additional $460 million to control stormwater in the city.

The enterprise was in place when Pueblo County issued its 1041 permit in 2009, which allowed Colorado Springs Utilities to construct the 17-mile portion of the pipeline in Pueblo County.

SDS is a 50-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West all benefit from the $825 million project.

Meanwhile, Fountain Creek keeps knocking out Colorado Springs’ stormwater control projects. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

Two projects meant to improve Fountain Creek through Pueblo have not held up well, but the city is not in a position to simply walk away from them.

Both were kicked off with a great deal of fanfare in 2011 as part of a $1.5 million demonstration project, but neither was able to withstand high water that came in single events in 2011 and 2013 or in a prolonged deluge in 2015.

Jeff Bailey, Pueblo’s stormwater director, gave a bleak assessment to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District Friday of the side detention pond that was built behind the North Side Walmart and the sediment collector located just north of the confluence with the Arkansas River.

He inherited both projects two years ago, and didn’t sound thrilled with either. But because of the investment put into the collector and the environmental implications of the detention pond, he is obligated to try to make them work.

The pond was designed to collect water as it backs up from a full channel, then slowly release it as the water recedes.

But the detention pond flooded in September 2011 before the project was completely finished. That scoured the ground too deeply, causing the pond to intercept groundwater. There wasn’t enough money to fill the pond, so the city — through an arrangement with the Pueblo Board of Water Works — must repay the evaporation costs each year.

The floods in 2013 and 2015 damaged the east retaining wall of the pond and took out most of the service road to the north bank. Disaster funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency can be applied to repairing the embankment, but the money is slow in coming, Bailey explained.

The Army Corps of Engineers won’t allow the city to disturb the wetlands that were created as part of the project. Finally, sediment has clogged the inlet/outlet pipe.

“Because of all this stuff, it’s difficult to maintain,” Bailey said.

The sediment collector was put in by Streamside Systems, and billed as a way to continuously dredge Fountain Creek by removing sediment as water washed over the large concrete structure. But differing opinions about where it should be placed and how it should be operating led to failure after it initially collected a pile of sand.

The device relies on pumps to remove sediment laden water, then return the water to the exact point where it was taken out. But when it is turned off, sediment continues to fall into it.

“It’s very labor intensive to clean out the collector and the pipes,” Bailey said.

No sediment has been collected since July 2013, and the collector is buried under 3-4 feet of sand.
“Since I came into stormwater, I’ve decided to give it one more college try and attempt to make it operational at low flows,” Bailey said. “We’re hoping to do it this winter. But we have to get it set up before we can turn it back on.”

Bailey said collectors work in other places, and there’s still a chance Pueblo’s could be functional. He plans to install a concrete “forebay” that could be easily cleaned, and then perhaps it could begin collecting large amounts of sediment.

During the initial installation, there were discussions about what to do with the sediment.

“That’s a problem I’d love to have,” Bailey said.

Some of the funding for the project could come from $3 million that Colorado Springs Utilities made available through its recent settlement with Pueblo County and $2.2 million that it paid earlier to settle dredging issues under the 1041 permit for Southern Delivery System. Already, $350,000 has been spent on the sediment collector.

Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart, chairman of the Fountain Creek board, said that money also has to be used for such things as debris removal as well.

“But some of the money could go for (the collector),” Hart said, “We’ve invested a lot of money in it already.”

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