Fountain Creek District board meeting update: Trail system from Colorado Springs to Pueblo?

Fountain Creek photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District
Fountain Creek photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Sure, Fountain Creek is going to flood from time to time.

But one landowner says that’s inevitable, and a district formed to improve the creek should be looking at using conservation easements to build a trail system from Pueblo to Colorado Springs.

“You could create an easement to connect the two cities,” said Jerry Martin, a Pueblo West Metropolitan District board member who owns property on Fountain Creek about 5 miles north of Pueblo. “It doesn’t solve flooding, but it helps mitigate the damage.”

Martin spoke at Friday’s meeting of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board.

Martin’s idea is for the district to secure easements, either through donations such as he is willing to do or by purchasing them. Martin, who chose to live in Pueblo West after working in Colorado Springs, said state funding is more likely if Pueblo and Colorado Springs can pull together for a common goal.

“My whole point is that we have a sow’s ear, but you can make a silk purse,” Martin said.

The district was receptive, and in fact already on the case.

Already, the district has secured Great Outdoors Colorado funding for trails in both El Paso and Pueblo counties, as well as recreational activities such as the wheel park on Pueblo’s East Side, slated to open in November.

Executive Director Larry Small noted that recreation has always been a purpose of the district, and is included in the strategic plan and corridor master plan.
Board member Richard Skorman added that the district is working to include the Fountain Creek trail as part of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s recently announced $100 million critical connections program for hike and bike trails.

“The designation would help,” Skorman said.

The idea of connecting Pueblo to the Front Range Trail via Fountain Creek goes back to then-Sen. Ken Salazar’s “Crown Jewel” vision in 2006. Skorman was a staffer for Salazar at the time.

“What can I do?” Martin asked. “I know it’s not a new idea, but one that I hope gets to the top of the list.”

“We’ve always felt we’ve been a stepchild,” Skorman said. “Colorado Springs and Pueblo need to push together. If we could get that (critical connection) designation, it could go a long way. We’re on a roll here if we can get this to work.”

CWCB board meeting recap: Horse Creek flume gets state funding

Fort Lyon Canal
Fort Lyon Canal

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Fort Lyon Canal Co. will rebuild its aging Horse Creek Flume this winter in a $2.2 million project designed to save both cropland and wildlife habitat.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved a $1.69 million loan and $500,000 grant at its meeting in Montrose this week. The grant was from the Water Supply Reserve Account endorsed by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable.

The 400-foot long, 10foot diameter steel pipe flume crosses Horse Creek about 8 miles west of Las Animas and was originally designed to carry 1,800 cubic feet per second when it was built in 1938. The flume has been repaired many times, but is at the end of its useful life. Its loss would affect farm revenues of $50 million and 14,000 acres of wildlife habitat.

Work on the project is scheduled to begin in November and be completed by March.

The CWCB also approved several other loans and grants that affect the Arkansas River basin:

A $533,000 project will replace the Evans Bypass Flume, a 450-foot long, 6-by-5foot structure with an underground pipeline at Evans Reservoir near Leadville. The Parkville Water District got a $180,000 loan and $300,000 grant from CWCB.

Lamar Water received a $100,000 loan and $161,000 grant toward a $400,000 project to repurpose two wells to provide non-potable water to irrigate public parks and fields. The wells previously were part of the city’s drinking water system until 2012, when they were taken out of service over water quality issues.

The Box Springs Canal and Reservoir Co., near Ordway, received a $200,000 grant toward a $300,000 project to replace several traditional wells with horizontal wells to restore production under water rights already claimed.

The Huerfano County Water Conservancy District won approval for a $220,000 grant toward a $250,000 project to assess the viability of storage in about 70 small dams in the Cucharas River basin.

The CWCB approved a $98,000 grant for the Arkansas Basin Roundtable to hire a coordinator to put the basin implementation plan into action. The plan identifies 300 projects — many of which meet multiple needs — that have been identified in the past 10 years.

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters
Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

The Pueblo Board of Water Works is looking at options to enlarge Clear Creek Reservoir

Clear Creek Reservoir
Clear Creek Reservoir

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

One of the most popular sayings surrounding the upcoming state water plan has been “one size does not fit all.”

Pueblo Water is taking that to heart in its own planning for the future of Clear Creek Reservoir, located in northern Chaffee County.

“Clear Creek is an important part of our future,” said Alan Ward, water resources manager for Pueblo Water. “We’re looking to see if there’s a sweet spot so we can look at enlargement that is most costeffective.”

The Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday approved a $97,600 contract with GEI Consultants to look at various sizes for enlargement of the reservoir.

The reservoir now holds 11,500 acre-feet (3.7 billion gallons). GEI did a study in 2001 on what it would cost to enlarge the reservoir to 30,000 acre-feet.

But those numbers are out of date by now, and there may be some intermediate sizes that are less costly and more practical.

The biggest factor is land acquisition. U.S. Forest Service and some private land lies behind the reservoir and would be inundated as reservoir levels rise. If the storage were increased to less than 30,000 acrefeet, not as much land would be needed, Ward explained.

While the dam is not unsafe, Pueblo Water is studying seepage issues and the effectiveness of corrective measures that have been performed. The risk assessment by Black & Veatch will be complete in October.

The study also will look at improving the outlet works in order to maintain large releases when necessary.

Pueblo Water purchased Clear Creek Reservoir and Ewing Ditch from the Otero Canal Co. in 1954, and uses it to store primarily transmountain water by exchange. There is an in-basin water storage right that occasionally comes into priority during wet conditions, such as this spring.

#COWaterPlan: Pueblo County files comments


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo County commissioners say the state should be a referee, rather than a sponsor, in future water projects and they want to emphasize local regulation.

“The county’s experience has been that federal and state regulations and enforcement alone have been inadequate to protect against local impacts of water projects,” the commissioners wrote in comments on the state water plan filed last week.

The deadline for comments was Thursday. Commissioners Liane “Buffie” McFadyen, Terry Hart and Sal Pace jointly signed the letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Colorado Water Conservation Board, who are working to finish the plan by December.

The commissioners want to make sure that the state water plan does not undermine the authority of the state’s counties and cities to regulate water projects under laws such as HB1034 and HB1041, both passed in 1974 to provide local regulation of statewide activities, including water projects.

Pueblo County has used the 1041 process most notably in obtaining mitigation for the Southern Delivery System, an $840 million project that is designed to bring water from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs.

SDS is scheduled to go online in 2016, and under the 2009 permit for the project, Colorado Springs has been required to spend an additional $75 million to fortify sewer lines, $50 million for Fountain Creek flood control, $15 million for roads, $4 million for wetlands restoration and $2.2 million for Fountain Creek channel dredging, among other conditions.

“To avoid confusion as to the local government’s authority to deny a permit for a specific project, we recommend that the following sentence be added: ‘A permit may be denied for a specific water project that does not meet the standards or criteria of the local regulations,’ ” the commissioners wrote.

The county also wants the state to remain neutral in water projects.

“Pueblo County does not believe that it is appropriate for the state of Colorado to endorse or become a sponsor of a water project in most cases,” they said.

The board also wants to include stormwater control in the state definition for watershed protection. Most of the efforts in the last three years in watershed health have focused on mitigating the damage from large wildfires, but Pueblo County said equal attention has to be given to the effects on water quality from increased stormwater caused by development, such as what has occurred on Fountain Creek.

Stormwater has been a key issue in regulation of SDS as well. A recent study for the county by Wright Water Engineers found that 370,000 tons of sediment are deposited each year between Colorado and Pueblo, decreasing the effectiveness of Fountain Creek levees.

Finally, the county wants water reuse to get more emphasis in the state water plan.

“The benefits to Pueblo County of promoting reuse are twofold,” commissioners said. “First, municipal reuse would reduce the need for dry-up of agricultural lands and transfers of agricultural water rights to municipal use. Second, reuse in El Paso County would reduce and control damaging flows in Fountain Creek through Pueblo County.”

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project operations update: Surplus supply going into water year 2016

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

What to do with all the water?

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District tackled the question Thursday by approving additional allocations requested by cities and farms in the Arkansas Valley.

But more than half of additional water brought in by the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project will be carried over to next year and added to next year’s allocations.

In May, the district allocated about 46,000 acre-feet (15 billion gallons), with about one-third going to cities and two-thirds to farms. But continued wet conditions added another 22,500 acre-feet to the amount available for allocation.

A total of 72,000 acrefeet were imported, but some of it goes for other obligations or to account for losses.

Wet conditions and the way water has to be delivered or accounted for cut down on demand for the additional water, Executive Director Jim Broderick explained.
Most cities had plenty of water in storage and not many places to store additional water.

“A lot of people were at their limit and not making request,” Broderick said. “It’s been a wet year and there is no place to put the water. Everything got full.”

The big exception was the Pueblo Board of Water Works, which did not take any water from the first allocation. Pueblo Water took 6,500 acre-feet. All told, cities added 8,200 acre-feet to their supplies.

The large canal companies downstream did not jump at all of the additional water either, because there was no way to store it for when it would be needed. About 2,600 acre-feet were allocated during the second round.

That still leaves about 11,700 acre-feet that was brought over from the Fryingpan River basin through the Boustead Tunnel into Turquoise Lake for later distribution in the Arkansas River basin.

“It will be applied to the first allocation next year,” Broderick said. “My guess is that a lot of the water is going to be available to agriculture.”

That could create a problem even with average moisture next spring, raising the possibility that water stored in excess capacity, or if-and-when accounts, could spill.

About 55,000 acre-feet of if-and-when water is stored in Lake Pueblo now, about one-quarter of the water in the reservoir.

Some winter water could also spill, if the amount exceeds 70,000 acre-feet. About 24,000 acre-feet are now in storage. However, winter water could be stored downstream as well.

Turquoise and Twin Lakes are nearly storing at capacity. Lake Pueblo is at 80 percent of capacity, but 145 percent of average for this time of year, according to Roy Vaughan, manager of the Fry-Ark Project for the Bureau of Reclamation.

If water conditions are typical, 26,000 acre-feet could spill next spring, but it is too soon to make an accurate prediction, Vaughan said. But he said most forecasts are calling for at least 100 percent of snowpack.

“Part of the question is are we bringing water in and using it that year, or are we storing it?” Broderick said. “For the past few years, we have been using other water and storing (Fry-Ark) water.”

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District
Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

Suthers: Flood funding needed — The Pueblo Chieftain

Fountain Creek
Fountain Creek

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers made a strong statement for stormwater funding in his state of the city speech Wednesday.

In doing so, he prominently highlighted the reason it is needed is to reduce the harmful impact to Pueblo from increased flows on Fountain Creek caused by growth in Colorado Springs. Spring rains caused millions of dollars in damage in both counties this spring.

“As recently as the late 1960s, our neighbor to the south, Pueblo, was larger than Colorado Springs. Since then Colorado Springs has grown to be about four times the size of Pueblo and that means considerably more impervious surfaces contributing to stormwater flow into Fountain Creek, with impacts on Pueblo,” Suthers said.

The mayor carefully reviewed the history of the stormwater enterprise approved by Colorado Springs City Council in 2005. It generated about $15 million per year until 2009, when council abolished the fee on a 5-4 vote in an interpretation of a public vote.

In the meantime, Colorado Springs negotiated a 1041 permit with PuebloCounty for the Southern Delivery System that included reliance on the stormwater enterprise.

“Pueblo contends that in issuing the permit they were relying on the fact Colorado Springs would continue funding a stormwater enterprise and is considering a lawsuit to revoke or amend the permit,” Suthers said. “I and members of the City Council, which also serves as the utility board, have been negotiating with Pueblo in an attempt to resolve the matter.”

Pueblo County has hired Wright Water Engineers to document the relationship of higher impact flows on Fountain Creek and growth in Colorado Springs.

“We would like to avoid litigation that would delay SDS from going online in 2016,” Suthers said.

Suthers and council are proposing a plan to provide $19 million annually for at least 10 years, and highlighted specific budget areas where the money would come from. He also referred to last year’s vote where Colorado Springs and El Paso County voters narrowly rejected a regional drainage authority.

“While Pikes Peak area voters declined to pass a stormwater proposal in November 2014, this is a complex problem that is not going away and needs to be addressed,” Suthers said. “And I emphasize that this is a public safety issue for the citizens of Colorado Springs as well as those of Pueblo.”