From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Colorado Springs Utilities and Gary Walker have reached a $7.1 million settlement for the damage to Walker Ranches from the Southern Delivery System pipeline.
The pipeline crosses 5.5 miles of the 63,000-acre property on its route from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs. The $841 million SDS project is scheduled to go online next year and will supply water to Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West.
On May 6, a jury awarded Walker $4.75 million, which included a $4.665 million judgment beyond the $82,900 stipulated value of the easement across Walker Ranches. Damages plus interest would have brought the total payment to $5.78 million, according to a joint press release.
Utilities disputed the amount, and filed an appeal on May 7. Walker Ranches appealed the decision on May 14. Those appeals were dismissed as part of the settlement reached June 16, but announced on Thursday.
The final agreement resolves all claims for $7.1 million, the press release said.
Utilities will also install fencing on Walker Ranches to prevent cattle from entering the area of the SDS pipeline scar that is being revegetated, and will work with Walker to erect berms on the property to reduce erosion.
The agreement also commits both parties to work together in the future to protect the right of way.
Utilities said the settlement provides more certainty about the ultimate cost of the project, reducing the possibility of an expensive appeals process.
“It has always been our intent when working with property owners to use the court process as a last resort,” John Fredell, SDS program director, said in the news release. “By successfully resolving these issues with Mr. Walker, we can focus on completing the required revegetation on his property and finishing the SDS project on time and under budget.”
Walker, when contacted by The Pueblo Chieftain , declined to comment because of the conditions of the settlement.
During the trial, Walker claimed the SDS project had compromised a $25 million conservation easement on 15,000 acres he was negotiating with the Nature Conservancy. He has used about $13 million from past easements to expand the ranches, which is part of a long-term plan to prevent further urban sprawl in northern Pueblo County.
Ray Petros, Pueblo County’s special counsel, said he has not seen the settlement agreement, so he is uncertain about how the county’s 1041 permit for SDS would be affected. The county is teeing up compliance hearings later this year on revegetation and Fountain Creek flood control, which are referenced in conditions that are part of the 1041 permit.