Glenwood Springs paddling toward whitewater parks, but rapids ahead

Looking up the Colorado River from the mouth of the Roaring Fork River. One of three proposed whitewater parks would be built in the river just upstream of the pedestrian bridge.
Looking up the Colorado River from the mouth of the Roaring Fork River. One of three proposed whitewater parks would be built in the river just upstream of the pedestrian bridge.

By Brent Gardner-Smith, Aspen Journalism

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — In its effort to secure water rights for three proposed whitewater parks on the Colorado River, the city of Glenwood Springs has reached formal or conceptual agreements with a list of opposing parties in the water court case, including Denver Water, but it’s still facing opposition from Aurora and Colorado Springs.

“We have a number of parties that have already settled,” said Mark Hamilton, an attorney with Holland and Hart representing Glenwood. “And while there are still some significant question marks, we think the process so far has been productive and continues to be productive.”

Since December 2013, the city has been seeking a recreational in-channel diversion (RICD) water right tied to three whitewater parks on the popular Grizzly-to-Two Rivers section of the Colorado River, at No Name, Horseshoe Bend and the upper end of Two Rivers Park.

The two wave-forming structures in each of the three whitewater parks would operate under a common water right that could call for 1,250 cubic feet per second of water from April 1 to Sept. 30, 2,500 cfs of water for up to 41 days between April 30 and July 23, and 4,000 cfs on five consecutive days sometime between June 30 and July 6.

The 1,250 cfs level is the same as the senior water right tied to the Shoshone hydropower plant, which is upstream from the three proposed whitewater parks. Glenwood officials have previously said, however, that 2,500 cfs is a better level for boating and floating than 1,250 cfs, and the city wants the flows of 4,000 cfs for five days around the Fourth of July to hold expert whitewater competitions.

But Aurora and Colorado Springs, both as individual cities, and together as the Homestake Partners, have told the water court that Glenwood is seeking more water than it needs.

“Glenwood has ignored the law limiting a RICD to the minimum flow necessary for a reasonable recreation experience, and instead has reverse-engineered its proposed RICD to tie up half the flow of the mainstem of the Colorado River,” the Front Range cities said in a June 2015 statement filed with the court.

And the cities, which own conditional water rights upstream of Glenwood, said that the city’s proposed water right “would dramatically and adversely affect the future of water use in the Colorado River drainage, if not the entire state.”

Hamilton has met twice this year with representatives of Aurora and Colorado Springs, most recently on April 22 in Denver, to see if a deal can be worked out on how much water is appropriate.

“We’re talking,” said Joe Stibrich, the water resources policy manager at Aurora Water. “But, we’ll see where it goes.”

“There are ongoing negotiations and discussions that seem to be productive at this time,” said Kevin Lusk, principal engineer at Colorado Springs Utilities. “Whether or not we can reach agreement, of course, is really up to how those discussions go.”

A status conference with the water court referee is set for June 23. The referee could then decide to send the application up to James Boyd, the judge who hears Division 5 water court cases in Glenwood Springs, or the parties in the case could ask for more time to keep talking before heading to trial.

“We are actively communicating with Colorado Springs and Aurora concerning the possible development of additional call reduction provisions in order to protect future yield to their systems,” Hamilton said. “And we remain hopeful that a stipulated decree may be able to be entered after completion of these ongoing negotiations.”

Glenwood has recently worked out a “call reduction provision” with Denver Water.

“There has been a lot of progress on our end with the RICD discussions,” said Travis Thompson, a senior media coordinator at Denver Water. “In fact, in the collaborative spirit of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement (CRCA), Denver Water has agreed to allow Glenwood Springs to exceed 1,250 cfs under certain conditions.”

In the CRCA, signed in 2013, Denver Water agreed not to oppose a future recreational water right application if it did not seek flows greater than 1,250 cfs. But given that Glenwood is also seeking 46 days at 2,500 cfs and five days at 4,000 cfs, above the relatively consistent flow of 1,250 cfs, Denver did file a statement of opposition in this case.

Glenwood and Denver have now agreed that Glenwood would reduce its call for the whitewater parks to 1,250 cfs if continuing to call at a higher rate, such as 2,500 cfs, would limit a potential future water project that is described in the CRCA as providing 20,000 acre-feet to the East Slope.

Staff at Denver Water approved such an agreement with Glenwood on March 9, according to Thompson, and Hamilton said a copy would soon be filed with the court.

A map filed by the city of Glenwood Springs showing the locations of three proposed whitewater parks. The city is seeking non-consumptive recreational in-channel diversion (RICD) rights tied to six rock structures built in the river, two in each of the three parks.
A map filed by the city of Glenwood Springs showing the locations of three proposed whitewater parks. The city is seeking non-consumptive recreational in-channel diversion (RICD) rights tied to six rock structures built in the river, two in each of the three parks.

Other opposers

Glenwood enjoys the support of three “opposers” in the case: American Whitewater, Western Resource Advocates and Grand County, as the entities have filed statements “of opposition in support,” which is an option in Colorado’s water courts.

And Glenwood has now filed formal agreements in water court that it has reached with five other true opposers with a range of issues: Glenwood Springs Hot Springs & Lodge Pool, Inc., BLM, Grand Valley Water Users Association, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District, and Ute Water Conservancy District.

The Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge & Pool is concerned about the project disrupting the deep Leadville limestone aquifer that provides its hot water.

But they’ve reached an agreement with the city that allows them to review construction plans for the wave structures at the Two Rivers Park location and requires the city to monitor the resulting wave structures for five years to watch for scouring of the riverbed, among other provisions.

And an agreement between Glenwood and the BLM was filed with the court in June 2015. It says that if the city needs to cross BLM property to create a whitewater park in Horseshoe Bend then the city will go through the required federal land use process.

The city has also signed a memorandum of understanding with CDOT that moves issues coming from the use of land at the No Name rest area on I-70 out of water court and into a future potential land-use application.

“One of the conditions is that the city will have to work with CDOT as they move forward with building the whitewater park, as the (No Name) location falls in CDOT right-of-way,” said Tracy Trulove, a communications manager for CDOT. The agreement has yet to be filed with the court.

A graphic presented to the Glenwood Springs city council in December showing the size and timing of the city's water right application on the Colorado River. The large dark blue block at the bottom represents a seasonal base line flow of 1,250 cfs. The smaller block on top represents 46 days at 2,500, the narrow dark blue spike is 5 days at 4,000 cfs.
A graphic presented to the Glenwood Springs city council in December showing the size and timing of the city's water right application on the Colorado River. The large dark blue block at the bottom represents a seasonal base line flow of 1,250 cfs. The smaller block on top represents 41 days at 2,500, the narrow dark blue spike is 5 days at 4,000 cfs.

District support

The city is also close to finalizing agreements with the Colorado River District, the town of Gypsum, and the West Divide Water Conservancy District, according to Hamilton.

Peter Fleming, general counsel for the Colorado River District, which represents 15 West Slope counties, said staff at the district is now comfortable with proposed settlement language in the Glenwood case.

And he said once the district’s initial goals in a RICD case are met, the district often stays in the case on the side of the applicants “in order to support the right of its constituents to use water for recreational purposes that will support and/or enhance the local economy.”

“We anticipate that such participation may be necessary in the Glenwood Springs RICD case,” Fleming said.

At the end of the list of opposers is the Colorado Water Conservation Board, a state agency whose board of directors in June 2015 recommended against the proposed RICD after concluding it would “impair Colorado’s ability to fully develop its compact entitlements” and would not promote “the maximum beneficial use of water” in the state.

“While we stand by our initial decision on this RICD, we’re encouraged that the applicants are actively seeking resolution with stakeholders and hope they will resolve the issues we raised,” James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said this week.

Eklund said the CWCB staff will likely reconsider Glenwood’s proposal after it has reached agreements with other opposing parties in the case, and if staff is satisfied, bring the proposed decree back to the board.

“Water for recreation in Glenwood Springs and around Colorado is essential and we want to make sure all RICDs strike the right legal, design, and safety balance,” Eklund said.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism and the Aspen Daily News are collaborating on coverage of water and rivers in Colorado. The Daily News published this story on Saturday, April 30, 2016.

History in the Making: SDS Starts Water Delivery [April 28]

Here’s the release from Colorado Springs Utilities:

One of the largest water infrastructure projects completed in the U.S. this century started delivering water today to homes and businesses in Colorado Springs, Colo. The commencement of the Southern Delivery System (SDS) culminates decades of planning and nearly six years of construction.

See video.

“The Southern Delivery System is a critical water project that will enable the continued quality of life southern Coloradans enjoy. The water provided through SDS means future economic growth for our community,” said Jerry Forte, Chief Executive Officer of Colorado Springs Utilities.

Not only does SDS meet the immediate and future water needs of Colorado Springs and its project partners Fountain, Security and Pueblo West through 2040, it also increases system reliability should other parts of the water system need maintenance or repairs. The project will also help provide drought protection, a significant benefit in the arid west.

Construction started in 2010 and concluded in 2016. Originally forecast to cost just under $1 billion, SDS is started on time and more than $160 million under budget costing $825 million.

“On time and under budget are words rarely used to describe large infrastructure projects,” said John Fredell, SDS Program Director. “We adopted a philosophy that ‘these are ratepayer dollars’ and managed the project with exceptional rigor. It was the responsible approach to spending hundreds of millions of dollars of public money.”

Components of SDS
SDS is a regional project that includes 50 miles of pipeline, three raw water pump stations, a water treatment plant (pictured above), and a finished water pump station. It will be capable, in its first phase, of delivering 50 million gallons of water per day and serving residents and businesses through 2040.

Key permits and approvals for SDS required $50 million in mitigation payments to the Fountain Creek Watershed District, funding for sediment control, habitat improvements and other environmental mitigation measures. Additionally, Colorado Springs and Pueblo County, just this week, both approved an intergovernmental agreement requiring Colorado Springs to invest $460 million over 20 years to improve the management of stormwater that makes its way into Fountain Creek.

Early on in the project, SDS program leaders agreed to spend at least 30 percent of construction dollars on local contractors. More than $585 million, or about 70 percent of the SDS budget, went to Colorado businesses.

“SDS is one of the most important projects many of us will ever work on,” said Forte. “This is a legacy project – one that benefits so many people today, tomorrow and for generations to come. This is an amazing day for our organization and for southern Colorado.”

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From the Associated Press via The Aurora Sentinel:

Water has begun flowing into Colorado Springs through a new 50-mile pipeline from the Arkansas River.

The city says the $825 million Southern Delivery System started operating Thursday.

The system is designed to handle growth in the state’s second-largest city until 2040 and provide a backup for its current aging system.

Pueblo West, Fountain and Security also get water from the pipeline.

The project includes modifications to Pueblo Dam on the Arkansas River, three pumping stations and a treatment plant.

Separately, Colorado Springs had to commit $460 million to reduce sediment in Fountain Creek. The sediment harms downstream communities in Pueblo County, and the county threatened to revoke a required permit for the pipeline if the issue wasn’t addressed.

SDS: “It has been a lot to get this Pueblo County agreement out of the way and taken care of successfully” — John Fredell

Southern Delivery System construction celebration August 19, 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain
Southern Delivery System construction celebration August 19, 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Billie Stanton Anleu):

The $825 million Southern Delivery System’s treatment plant was ready to serve drinking water Wednesday, as a project 20 years in the making finally made its debut.

The distribution system will be turned on Thursday to deliver water to Colorado Springs, Security and Fountain, and water will begin reaching those customers Friday. The SDS already supplies water to Pueblo West, which needed early assistance after a major water pipe in its system broke.

“Things are going great, just like we’ve always planned,” SDS Project Manager John Fredell said Wednesday. “We’ve worked on a lot of these issues a long time to get ready.”

The project hit a snag last year when Pueblo County, which had issued the essential SDS 1041 permit, began seriously pressuring Colorado Springs leaders.

The county insisted on more city stormwater projects to protect downstream residents from excessive flows, sediment buildup and water quality degradation in Fountain Creek.

The City Council signed an intergovernmental agreement April 20. It promises, among other things, to spend $460 million on 71 mutually beneficial stormwater projects over the next 20 years, with Colorado Springs Utilities guaranteeing any funds the city can’t provide.

Pueblo County commissioners approved that pact Monday, enabling SDS to kick off its operations on Wednesday, the target date set years ago.

“It has been a lot to get this Pueblo County agreement out of the way and taken care of successfully,” Fredell acknowledged. “But I really did not fear that it wasn’t going to happen. It was just a matter of timing.”

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers has spent much of his first year in office negotiating with Pueblo County and with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the city’s long-time stormwater program deficiencies.

Dan Higgins, chief water services officer for Utilities, called it “a great day.”

“I look back at all the things we’ve seen our team experience,” Higgins said. “We’ve been through so much together. It’s just a fantastic experience for everybody that’s been involved.”

As usual, Fredell credits his project team for a job well done.

“I’m telling you, without all these great people putting out every ounce of energy they have, we couldn’t have done it,” Fredell said. “And to me that’s just so cool, to bring all these people together and they’re all pulling in the same direction.

“To me, that’s the coolest thing. I feel like the whole team, we have stronger friendships now than when we started. How many teams can say that? To me, that’s absolutely incredible.”

The project team determined in July 2009 that the SDS would start operating in April 2016.

“I’ll feel better Friday,” admitted Kim Mutchler, who has worked on SDS for Utilities’ government and corporate affairs team. “There’s a lot going on between now and then.

“I’m happy for these guys who have been on this project for so long. It’s just exciting to see (Utilities) board members and previous council members. We had a couple out there yesterday seeing (the plant) for the first time. It’s nice to see them excited.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The need for Colorado Springs to control stormwater on Fountain Creek was always tied to the Southern Delivery System, and the new agreement with Pueblo County is designed to cement the relationship.

During the permitting process for SDS, stormwater control was mentioned in both the Bureau of Reclamation environmental impact statement and Pueblo County’s 1041 permit.

Ever since Colorado Springs City Council abolished its stormwater enterprise in 2009, the city engaged in political gymnastics to assure Pueblo County it was doing enough.

Monday’s completion of an intergovernmental agreement should represent an end to political bickering over stormwater, because it spells out very clearly what has to be done over the next 20 years.

Commissioners were quick to point out Monday that the items contained in the agreement are not the only things Colorado Springs must do in relation to SDS under the 1041 permit. But they have to do these things:

Fund stormwater control with at least $460 million over the next 20 years.

The funding will go toward 71 projects on a set schedule that can be adjusted only if both parties agree.

The amount of funding steps up from at least $20 million per year in the first five years to at least $26 million per year in the last five.

While the money can be matched with other funds, Colorado Springs must come up with the minimum amount, but the sources are not specified. Annual reports are required.

Colorado Springs also is required to resolve any conflicts with the IGA that might result from action by the Department of Justice, EPA and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment over the city’s failure to meet the terms of its municipal stormwater permit from 2013-15.

A provision of the IGA requires Colorado Springs to notify Pueblo County of any variance to its drainage criteria manual. The failure to apply the document to new development was among deficiencies identified by the EPA in its audit of Colorado Springs’ stormwater permit.

Regional cooperation on Fountain Creek.

The IGA triggers the first two payments of $10 million each that were negotiated under the 1041 permit. Five annual payments of $10 million are required. The money must be used for a dam, detention ponds or other flood control structures that protect Pueblo from flows on Fountain Creek that have increased because of growth in Colorado Springs and El Paso County.

The first payment is actually $9,578,817, because of credits for payments already made and an “index” fee, which amounts to interest payments. It will come within 30 days.

The second $10 million payment will be made Jan. 15.

The payments go to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, which was created by the state Legislature to improve Fountain Creek.

Formed in 2009, the district grew out of discussions between the two counties. Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace sponsored the legislation when he served as a state representative.

The IGA also provides $125,000 to the district, which will be used in part to help fund a state study of a dam or detention ponds on Fountain Creek. The money is in addition to the $50 million required under the 1041 permit. The Fountain Creek board will determine exactly how the money is spent.

Both Pueblo County and Colorado Springs agree to work with other governments to find a permanent source of funding for the Fountain Creek district.

Colorado Springs also will pay $3 million over three years to the city of Pueblo for repairs to levees, dredging and removal of debris or vegetation in Fountain Creek.

Pueblo is required to match the money, but can use about $1.8 million that Pueblo County is still holding from $2.2 million Colorado Springs was made to pay for dredging in Pueblo. Some of the money was spent on demonstration projects.

The agreement also specifies that any disputes will be handled in the same way as disagreements in the 1041 permit. If not successful, legal action over the IGA would be handled in Pueblo District Court.

Southern Delivery System to be turned on today after decades — The Pueblo Chieftain

Southern Delivery System map via Colorado Springs Utilities
Southern Delivery System map via Colorado Springs Utilities

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Utilities plans to begin using the Southern Delivery System today, more than seven years after getting the green light from Pueblo County and the Bureau of Reclamation to build it. “We plan on 5 million gallons a day initially, but we may go less. It depends on how we use it,” said John Fredell, SDS project director. “On Thursday, the water we pump will be turned into our system.”

SDS will be able to operate after an agreement was reached on Fountain Creek stormwater control on issues not explicitly covered in Pueblo County’s 1041 permit. The new agreement contains funding benchmarks that were not originally in place.

Over the next 40 years, the amount of water pumped through SDS could increase to as much as 75 million gallons a day. Another 18 million gallons a day could be pumped to Pueblo West, which through a special agreement already is using SDS for its water supply.

The treatment plant as built can treat up to 50 million gallons per day, but eventually could be expanded to treat up to 100 million gallons per day.

As part of SDS, the city of Fountain can receive more of its water through the Fountain Valley Conduit, a line built from Pueblo Dam in the early 1980s as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.

The other partner in SDS is Security Water and Sanitation, which serves an unincorporated area south of Colorado Springs and has an immediate need for a new water source because of well contamination.

Construction on the $825 million project began in 2011, one year after the Bureau of Reclamation approved the final contract for the use of Lake Pueblo as part of the project. In 2009, Reclamation issued a record of decision that allowed the project to be built.

Also in 2009, Pueblo County commissioners approved a land-use permit under the 1974 HB1041, which lets cities or counties regulate projects that cross their boundaries.

SDS includes a new connection built at Pueblo Dam, three pump stations, a water treatment plant and a treated water pump station. The North Outlet Works, Juniper Pump Station just northeast of Pueblo Dam and about 17 miles of buried 66inch diameter pipeline are the features of SDS in Pueblo County.

The project grew out of water resources plans that began in the late 1980s, when Colorado Springs purchased controlling interest in the Colorado Canal system in Crowley County.

In order to use the water, as well as provide redundancy for its other sources of water, Colorado Springs developed a Water Resource Plan in 1996. That plan identified other alternatives to bring water to Colorado Springs, including a route from a new reservoir at Buena Vista, a Fremont County pipeline and a line from Crowley County.

By the early 2000s, the Buena Vista reservoir was eliminated by environmental protests, and Utilities ruled out Crowley County because of the expense of overcoming water quality issues. By 2008, Fremont County and Pueblo Dam were being seriously considered.

The Pueblo Dam option was chosen in Reclamation’s record of decision as the route.

In the second phase of SDS, which is anticipated to begin between 2020-25, two reservoirs would be built on Williams Creek east of Fountain. The upper reservoir would be terminal storage for the pipeline from Pueblo Dam, while the lower one would regulate return flows from Colorado Springs’ wastewater treatment plant into Fountain Creek.

SDS is designed to serve a population of 900,000, about twice the current number living in Colorado Springs.

The 1996 water resources plan came at a time when Colorado Springs’ population had increased from 70,000 in 1960 to 330,000 in 1996. Utilities already is working on a 50-year plan to meet its future water resource needs.

More Coyote Gulch Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Pueblo County OKs stormwater deal with Colorado Springs — The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas):

It was called a historic day for Pueblo County and Colorado Springs.

Pueblo County commissioners approved an agreement over the Southern Delivery System with its Front Range neighbors to the north during a meeting at the courthouse.

The agreement is a clarification of the rules and responsibilities with regards of one of the issues with a 1041 permit dealing with the SDS project, mainly how to control stormwater, flooding and sediment transports along Fountain Creek.

“We think it is historic,” Commissioner Terry Hart said. “This has been a growing process. It’s been a learning process as the growth of Colorado Springs has impacted more and more our downstream community.”

In the agreement, Colorado Springs would pay more than $605 million to cover environmental damage for SDS should the intergovernmental agreement with Pueblo County be approved.

The proposed deal includes a guarantee to spend at least $460 million over the next 20 years to repair and build storm water structures in Colorado Springs in a way that benefits downstream communities, particularly the city of Pueblo.

Colorado Springs approved the agreement last week.

“We are thrilled that we reached this point,” Hart said.

“A lot of folks see this as an ending to a process and it’s just the opposite. It’s just the beginning. It’s a more cooperative approach between the two communities.”

Cartoon via The Pueblo Chieftain
Cartoon via The Pueblo Chieftain

Mark Pifher and Dallas May join the Southeastern #Colorado Water board of directors

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

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Two new board members from opposite ends of the water spectrum joined the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday.

Dallas May, 58, a farmer and rancher from the Lamar area, and Mark Pifher, 65, a former director of Aurora water, were appointed to the board by 10th Judicial District Chief Judge Deborah Eyler and sworn in Thursday.

Eyler consults with district judges from the areas where appointments are made, because the Southeastern district covers a nine-county area. Terms are for four years.

May is a fourth-generation farmer who owns water shares on the Fort Lyon Canal, Amity Canal, Lower Arkansas Water Management Association and other ditches in the area. He replaces Leonard Pruett, who served one term on the board.

“I’ve been passive and always thought someone else would make the decision,” May said. “But given some of the controversial issues going on, I decided it was time to get involved.”

May said he is most concerned with protecting the water rights of those who choose to continue farming.

“My concern is that irrigation water does not depart the valley and leave it a wasteland,” May said.
He also would like to see the completion of the Arkansas Valley Conduit, the top priority project of the Southeastern district.

“It’s ironic and absurd that Rocky Mountain snowmelt flows past us and we have to buy bottled water,” May said, regarding the need for the conduit. “It’s absurd that people try to buy it and pipe it into another water basin.”

Pifher, 65, of Colorado Springs, replaces Harold Miskel on the board.

Miskel, a retired Colorado Springs Utilities executive, had served since 2002.

Pifher four years ago left Aurora water to work on the Southern Delivery System for Colorado Springs Utilities, retiring last year. He continues as a consultant on SDS and water quality issues. He is the former executive director of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission.

His expertise on state water issues and additional time on his hands since his retirement led him to apply.

“I hope to continue the work already started by the district on the Arkansas Valley Conduit, the use of water resources and the opportunities for storage,” Pifher said. “I will give a municipal point of view to the board.”

Reappointed to the board were: Gibson Hazard of Colorado Springs, who has been on the board for 28 years; Kevin Karney, an Otero County rancher and commissioner, now in his eighth year; and Vera Ortegon of Pueblo, a former City Council and water board member, who has been on the board for 12 years.

Officers were elected as well. Bill Long of Las Animas is president; Gary Bostrom, Colorado Springs, vice president; Ortegon, secretary; and Ann Nichols, Manitou Springs, treasurer.

#Colorado Springs, three other cities one vote away from [improved] water-supply security — The Colorado Springs Gazette

Here’s an in depth look at the new Southern Delivery System which is about to go online from Billie Stanton Anleu writing in The Colorado Springs Gazette. Click through and read the whole article and to check out the photos. Here’s an excerpt:

The launch of the long-awaited SDS hinges on a vote by Pueblo County commissioners Monday to approve a stormwater deal with Colorado Springs, thus freeing the SDS 1041 permit the commissioners granted in 2009.

The start of the SDS will culminate 20 years of planning, years of quarreling between Pueblo County and Colorado Springs, and six years of building 53 miles of huge pipelines, three pump stations and a 100-acre water treatment plant.

The $825 million project will pump 5 million gallons of water a day – and up to 50 million when needed – to Colorado Springs, Pueblo West, Fountain and Security.

The project was a figment in 1996, when the Colorado Springs City Council approved a Water Resource Plan to explore how best to sate the thirst of a rapidly growing population.

In July 2009, the council approved the SDS as the best of seven alternatives – just as the recession struck. So the project was used as “our own stimulus,” says SDS Program Director John Fredell.

Workshops in Pueblo, El Paso and Fremont counties showed contractors how to work with Colorado Springs Utilities.

The only Colorado company that could build the huge pipes, of 66- and 90-inch diameter, competed against out-of-state bidders but got more than $100 million in business with the SDS.

And that firm wasn’t alone. A contract goal said 30 percent of business should go to Colorado firms. Contractors who failed to meet that threshold were penalized. And the goal was exceeded, Fredell said.

More than 430 Colorado companies have worked on the SDS. Of the $711 million spent through December, $585 million worth of work has stayed in Colorado – about $287 million in El Paso County, $75 million in Pueblo County and $222 million elsewhere in the state.

Meanwhile, what Fredell calls the toughest part of the whole project ensued.

His team spent five years creating a 3,000-page Environmental Impact Statement and obtaining the 1041 permit from Pueblo County. It also had to get about 350 other permits, 200 of them major. Even the Federal Aviation Administration had to OK the plan, as the water treatment plant off of Colorado 94 is in the Colorado Springs Airport flight line.

When construction commenced in 2010, the first challenge was connecting to the Pueblo Dam.

Water flowing from the dam’s North Outlet Works into the Arkansas River was rechanneled so the square outlet channel could get a round pipe fitting to connect to the liner pipe through the dam to the river outlet, said Dan Higgins, chief water services officer for Utilities.

A 0.3-mile pipe segment also was installed from the valve house to the Juniper Pump Station, to link Pueblo West to the SDS and carry water for the other users. Juniper is the first of three pump stations needed to move the water 53 miles uphill. El Paso County became home to the Williams Creek and Bradley pump stations.

The water is being moved through massive pipes buried 85 feet beneath Interstate 25, Fountain Creek and two sets of railroad tracks. One mile of that stretch is a tunnel about 20 miles south of downtown Colorado Springs.

The destination? The Edward W. Bailey Water Treatment Plant, named for “one of the real geniuses of the 1996 water master plan,” said City Council President Merv Bennett.

That 100-acre plant can purify 50 million gallons of water a day, which then goes through a pump station for treated water and more pipelines to reach customers.

The Bailey plant’s developed area could contain 77 football fields, said Kim Mutchler, of Utilities government and corporate affairs.

Utilities water customers are paying for this project. But they’re paying a lot less than projected, as cost-cutting measures shaved the project’s predicted $985 million price tag.

In 2009, Utilities predicted seven consecutive years of 12 percent water rate increases, followed by two years of 4 percent hikes. Instead, rates rose 12 percent in 2011 and 2012 and 10 percent in 2013 and 2014.

The project is needed for many reasons, community leaders agree.

Because Colorado’s second-biggest city isn’t near a major river, it has relied on water brought over the Continental Divide. But those pipelines are nearly 50 years old.

With another 350,000 residents expected to move to El Paso County over the next 30 years – while industry and businesses need water, too – the Southern Delivery System is seen as a move to secure the city’s future.

If water demand increases, SDS will add two reservoirs, increase the raw water delivery capacity, and expand the water treatment plant and pump stations to deliver more than 100 million gallons a day – double the maximum available starting Wednesday.

Southern Delivery System map via Colorado Springs Utilities
Southern Delivery System map via Colorado Springs Utilities