Choices are narrowing for water development along Eagle River — Aspen Daily News

Eagle River Basin
Eagle River Basin

From Aspen Journalism (Allen Best) via the Aspen Daily News:

Two Front Range cities along with Western Slope parties and the Climax Molybdenum Co. hope to narrow their plans during the next 18 months for new or expanded reservoirs in the upper Eagle River watershed near Camp Hale.

One configuration of a possible new reservoir on Homestake Creek, a tributary of the Eagle River, would force a minor tweaking of the Holy Cross Wilderness Area boundary.

That adjustment along with the presence of ecologically important wetlands along where Whitney Creek flows into Homestake Creek are among the many complexities that partners — including the cities of Aurora and Colorado Springs — face as they consider how to satisfy their projected water needs.

Work underway this fall and expected to wrap up next year focuses on technical feasibility of individual projects. None alone is likely to meet the needs of all the partners.

Also at issue is money. One set of projects would cost $685 million, according to preliminary engineering estimates issued by Wilson Water Group and other consultants in April.

Aurora Water’s Kathy Kitzmann likens the investigation to being somewhere between the second and third leg around the bases.

“We’re not in the home stretch,” Kitzmann said at a recent meeting.

Still to be decided, as costs estimates are firmed up, is how badly Aurora, Colorado Springs and other water interests want the additional storage.

The Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River Water Conservation District has decided it only needs another several hundred-acre feet of yield.

John Currier, chief engineer for the river district, said that the less expensive studies have been done. Coming studies will be more expensive.

“I think we are to the point that the cost of investigations themselves are going to start driving the decisions, and I also think that the timing and need of the partners is helping drive those decisions,” Currier said.

At one time, the idea of pumping water eastward from Ruedi Reservoir was considered. That idea has been discarded as part of this investigation.

This exploration of water what-ifs is governed by a 1998 agreement, the Eagle River memorandum of understanding, or MOU.

The MOU envisioned water projects collaboratively constructed in ways that benefit parties on both Eastern and Western slopes, as well as Climax, the owner of the molybdenum mine that straddles the Continental Divide at Fremont Pass. Minimal environmental disruption is also a cornerstone of the agreement.

Long legal fight
The collaboration stems from a milestone water case. Aurora and Colorado Springs in 1967 completed a major water diversion that draws water from Homestake Creek and its tributaries.

Homestake Reservoir has a capacity of 43,500 acre-feet, or a little less than half of Ruedi, and is located partly in Pitkin County. The water is diverted via a 5.5-mile tunnel to Turquoise Lake near Leadville and into the Arkansas River.

Near Buena Vista that water is pumped 900 feet over the Mosquito Range into South Park for eventual distribution to Aurora and Colorado Springs.

But the cities left water rights on the table. In 1987, they returned to Eagle County with plans to divert water directly from the Holy Cross Wilderness.

The Colorado Wilderness Act of 1980 that created Holy Cross left the legal door open for a new water diversion. The law specified that “this act shall not interfere with the construction, maintenance, and/or expansion of the Homestake Water Development Project of the cities of Aurora and Colorado Springs in the Holy Cross Wilderness.”

But Colorado had changed greatly from 1967 to 1987 and state laws adopted in the early 1970s gave Eagle County expanded land-use authority. County commissioners in 1988 used that authority to veto Homestake II.

That veto, which was appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, along with the denial of the Two Forks Dam southwest of Denver at about the same time, signaled that Colorado was in a new era of water politics.

Under Colorado water law, though, the two cities still owned substantial water rights in the Eagle River Basin. Guided by the Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River District, negotiations led to an agreement to develop projects to jointly benefit the former protagonists: 10,000 acre-feet of guaranteed dry-year yield for Western Slope users, 20,000 acre-feet of average-year yield for the cities, and 3,000 acre-feet for Climax.

Eagle Park Reservoir is an off-channel reservoir located on property formerly owned by the Climax Molybdenum Company (Climax) at the Climax Mine in the upper Eagle River Basin, which was originally used to store mine tailings. As part of the mine reclamation process, Climax removed tailings deposits from the reservoir and converted the facility to a fresh water storage reservoir. In 1998, Eagle Park Reservoir Company (EPRC) purchased the reservoir from Climax and began using it for municipal, industrial, irrigation, and environmental water supply purposes. Photo via Leonard Rice Engineers.
Eagle Park Reservoir is an off-channel reservoir located on property formerly owned by the Climax Molybdenum Company (Climax) at the Climax Mine in the upper Eagle River Basin, which was originally used to store mine tailings. As part of the mine reclamation process, Climax removed tailings deposits from the reservoir and converted the facility to a fresh water storage reservoir. In 1998, Eagle Park Reservoir Company (EPRC) purchased the reservoir from Climax and began using it for municipal, industrial, irrigation, and environmental water supply purposes. Photo via Leonard Rice Engineers.

Water supply options
Expansion of Eagle Park Reservoir is one option being studied.

Located near Fremont Pass at the headwaters of the East Fork of the Eagle River, it was originally created to hold mine tailings from Climax. In the 1990s it was gutted of tailings in order to hold water. A consortium of Vail Resorts, two-interrelated Vail-based water districts, and the Colorado River District combined to create a reservoir.

Aurora and Colorado Springs agreed to subordinate water rights in order to ensure firm yield for the Western Slope parties.

To expand the reservoir from the existing 3,300 acre-feet to 7,950 acre-feet could cost anywhere from $39.1 million to $70.8 million, depending upon how much work, if any, is needed to manage seepage beneath the existing dam. Test borings that began Sept. 12 will advance the design of the larger reservoir. Five possible configurations date from 1994.

Another option is to create a new relatively small dam on or adjacent to Homestake Creek, near its confluence with Whitney Creek. This is three miles off of Highway 24, between Camp Hale and Minturn.

Among the four possible configurations for this potential Whitney Creek Reservoir is a tunnel to deliver water from two creeks, Fall and Peterson, in the Gilman area.

A third option is restoration of a century-old dam at Minturn that was breached several years ago. Bolts Lake, however, would serve only Western Slope interests.

Still on the table is a new reservoir on a tributary to the Eagle River near Wolcott. That reservoir has been discussed occasionally for more than 30 years. However, like a Ruedi pumpback, it’s not part of the current discussion involving the Eagle River MOU partners.

Complex wetlands
Most problematic of the options is Whitney Creek. It would require relocation of a road and, in one of the configurations, water could back up into the existing wilderness area. For that to happen, Congress would have to tweak the wilderness boundary.

Wetlands displacement could also challenge a Whitney Reservoir. An investigation underway seeks to reveal whether those wetlands include areas classified as fens. Fens are peat-forming wetlands fed primarily by groundwater. As they may take thousands of years to develop, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specifies that “every reasonable effort should be made to avoiding impact fens.”

“If fens are found, I expect a lengthy debate about the quantity and quality of fens required to be a fatal flaw,” said the river district’s Currier in a July memorandum. That determination will be made before drilling is authorized to determine whether a dam is possible.

Western Slope parties, said Currier in the memo, “believe an Eagle Park enlargement may ultimately become very attractive because the environmental and permitting issues are much, much simpler than a Whitney Creek alternative.”

Nearly all the alternatives being considered in the Eagle River Basin would require extensive pumping, as opposed to gravity-fed reservoir configurations. Water would have to be pumped 1,000 vertical feet into Eagle Park Reservoir, for example, then pumped again to get it across the Continental Divide.

A Whitney Creek Reservoir would require less, but still expensive pumping. Water in the reservoir would be received by gravity flow, but from there it would be pumped about seven miles up to Homestake Reservoir. Whether it can accommodate more water has yet to be determined, one of many dangling question marks.

Earlier, the parties had investigated the possibility of using an aquifer underlying Camp Hale as a reservoir. But drilling to determine the holding capacity proved maddening complex. Accounting for water depletions from pumping would have been very difficult. Further, operation of the system to prevent impact to other water users and instream flows would have been problematic. The idea was abandoned in 2013.

Currier, in his July report to the River District board of directors, outlined several questions that he said should provoke discussion among the Eagle River partners this fall: How much of the water outlined under the 1998 agreement does each party realistically need, and when? Are they ready to begin seeking permits after this new round of investigation to be completed next year?

Need for water?
This week, in response to questions from Aspen Journalism, the Eagle River MOU partners explained the need for the water to be developed between 2036 and 2050.

Both Aurora and Colorado Springs have added major projects in recent years. After the drought of 2002, a very-worried Aurora pushed rapidly for a massive reuse project along the South Platte River called Prairie Waters. It went on line in 2010 — far more rapidly than any project on the Eagle River could have been developed.

Colorado Springs last year began deliveries of water from Pueblo Reservoir via the Southern Delivery System, an idea first conceived in 1989. The Vail-based water districts also increased their storage capacity after 2002.

At a meeting in Georgetown in August, representatives of the two cities said they were unsure of the precise need for water.

Greg Baker, a spokesman for Aurora Water, describes a “delicate balancing act” about what is “going to be most reliable and what is going to be most environmentally permittable and permissible.”

Brett Gracely, of Colorado Springs Utilities, said project costs are “still in the realm of other projects are we looking at.”

The 1998 agreement specified that costs of initial studies should be divided equally, four ways. As the project progresses, the costs are to be split according to percentage of yield that each party would gain.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism and the Aspen Daily News are collaborating on the coverage of rivers and water. More at http://www.aspenjournalism.org.

prairiewaterstreatment
Aurora Prairie Waters Project
Southern Delivery System map via Colorado Springs Utilities
Southern Delivery System map via Colorado Springs Utilities

Glenwood Springs still facing challenge to water rights for new whitewater parks

Looking up the Colorado River as it flows through Horseshoe Bend, just east of downtown Glenwood Springs. The site is one of three where Glenwood Springs seeks to build a whitewater park. The city is now in the process of obtaining a water right for the parks but has yet to reach agreements with Aurora and Colorado Springs about the proposed water rights.
Looking up the Colorado River as it flows through Horseshoe Bend, just east of downtown Glenwood Springs. The site is one of three where Glenwood Springs seeks to build a whitewater park. The city is now in the process of obtaining a water right for the parks but has yet to reach agreements with Aurora and Colorado Springs about the proposed water rights.

By Brent Gardner-Smith, Aspen Journalism

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The city of Glenwood Springs is making progress toward securing a recreational water right for three potential whitewater parks on the Colorado River, but it has yet to come to terms with Aurora, Colorado Springs and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

In kayaking terms, it could be said the city has greased close to a dozen Class II and III rapids so far since it started its run through water court in 2013. And it’s recently made it cleanly through a Class IV hole called “Denver Water.” But it is now facing two gnarly Class V rapids called “Homestake” and “CWCB.”

Aurora and Colorado Springs are co-owners of the Homestake Project, which includes a reservoir on Homestake Creek in the upper Eagle River basin that holds 43,300 acre-feet of water.

The water is stored and then shipped through the Homestake Tunnel to Turquoise Reservoir and on to the two Front Range cities, which also hold conditional water rights in the Homestake Project that could allow for development of more water.

The two cities, acting jointly as Homestake Partners, have told the water court and the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) that Glenwood Springs is claiming more water than it needs for a valid recreational experience.

And they say Glenwood Springs’ proposed water right for the parks would prevent the additional development of more water-supply projects in the upper Colorado River basin within Colorado.

“Glenwood’s proposed RICD [recreational in-channel diversion] would unilaterally foreclose development in the Colorado River basin above Glenwood, affecting users both in the basin and on the Front Range,” Aurora and Colorado Springs told the water court in June 2015. “This will result in further ‘buy and dry’ of agricultural water rights, and could in addition motivate West Slope users to make trans-basin diversions from other river basins, such as the Yampa and Gunnison.”

Looking up the Colorado River as it flows past the No Name rest stop on I-70. The site is one of three locations for potential whitewater parks that the city of Glenwood Springs is seeking a water right for.
Looking up the Colorado River as it flows past the No Name rest stop on I-70. The site is one of three locations for potential whitewater parks that the city of Glenwood Springs is seeking a water right for.

Seeking flow

Glenwood Springs has filed for a single water right tied to “three proposed boating parks” to be known as the No Name, Horseshoe Bend and Two Rivers whitewater parks. Each park would include two wave-producing structures.

The whitewater parks would be able to call for between 1,250 cubic feet per second of water from April 1 to Sept. 30, for 2,500 cfs between June 8 and July 23, and for 4,000 cfs for five days between June 30 and July 6.

The ability for Glenwood to call for 1,250 cfs doesn’t seem to be much of an issue in the case, as that’s the same amount of water that the Shoshone hydropower plant upstream of the proposed whitewater parks has been calling downriver since 1902.

But flows of 2,500 and 4,000 cfs are apparently a different matter.

“We see nothing substantiating that there is any demand for water-based recreational experiences beyond those that are already available in view of the current stream regimen,” wrote attorneys for Homestake in 2014.

Yet the city has so far managed to file signed stipulations in water court with Denver Water, Ute Water Conservancy District, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District, Grand Valley Water Users Association, Ute Water Conservancy District, Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge and Pool, Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Dept. of Transportation.

The most recent of those agreements approved in Div. 5 water court in Glenwood Springs was with CDOT on July 25 and with Denver Water on May 31.

The agreement with Denver Water includes a provision where Glenwood Springs will not oppose a future, and as yet undefined, project to develop an additional 20,000 acre-feet of diversions from the West Slope, as contemplated in the 2013 Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, or CRCA, which Glenwood Springs signed.

“We’ve just agreed that we’re not going to have our water right impede that project once it’s defined and agreed to by the signatories of the CRCA,” said Mark Hamilton of Holland and Hart, the attorney representing Glenwood Springs in the case (2013CW3109).

Glenwood Springs has also reached conceptual agreements with the Colorado River District, West Divide Water Conservancy District and the town of Gypsum, but has yet to file signed stipulation agreements with the court.

Also in the case, but in support of Glenwood Springs’ application, are American Whitewater, Western Resource Advocates, and Grand County.

“We’ve made a really diligent specific effort to address a whole variety of concerns from a whole bunch of different people,” Hamilton said. “We’re making every effort to get there, but until Homestake and CWCB come to rest, we can’t assure anybody we still don’t need to have some kind of hearing in front of Judge Boyd.”

Judge James Boyd oversees water court proceedings in Div. 5 water court. The city’s application is still before the water court referee, who works with opposing parties to see if settlements can be reached before referring the case to the judge.

The referee has given the parties at least until Oct. 27 to see if agreements can be reached, but extensions of time are not usually hard to obtain.

Hamilton is set to meet on Sept. 8 with representatives from Aurora and Colorado Springs in another effort to reach an agreement. It will be the fourth such meeting since February.

Joe Stibrich, the water resources policy manager for Aurora Water and a member of the board of the Homestake Steering Committee, said last week he couldn’t discuss the ongoing settlement negotiations, but did say Aurora and Homestake Partners were working in good faith.

He also said, however, that the concerns already articulated by the two cities to the court and CWCB are still outstanding.

A view from the Pitkin County end of Homestake Reservoir, located on Homestake Creek, a tributary of the upper Eagle River.
A view from the Pitkin County end of Homestake Reservoir, located on Homestake Creek, a tributary of the upper Eagle River.

Carving out the MOU

Aurora and Colorado Springs are both parties to the Eagle River Memorandum of Understanding, which is tied to the Homestake Reservoir and Tunnel.

The 1998 agreement allows for a new water supply project in the upper Eagle River basin that would provide 10,000 acre-feet of water for a variety of West Slope entities and 20,000 acre-feet for Aurora and Colorado Springs.

Such a project is now being actively studied, and may include a new dam on lower Homestake Creek that would flood complex wetlands.

Hamilton put a clause in the draft water rights decree that Glenwood Springs “shall not use the RICD water rights as a basis to oppose” projects described in the Eagle River MOU.

“That’s something that we offered up without even having a settlement agreement with them,” Hamilton said. “It was my initial shot at trying to draft a ruling that I though would address their concerns. And so I would envision that any additional settlement terms would be laid on top of what we’ve already put in there.”

There is likely more than the Eagle River MOU of interest to Aurora and Colorado Springs.

In 2012, the two cities told the BLM and USFS, in comment letters regarding potential Wild and Scenic designation on a section of the Colorado River, that “as much as 86,400 acre feet of water supplies may be developed by completion of the Homestake Project” and that “Aurora and Colorado Springs plan to develop the remaining portions of Homestake Project.”

Looking up the Colorado River toward Glenwood Springs at Two Rivers Park, where the city of Glenwood may someday build a whitewater park. The city has been working since 2013 on securing a recreational water right for three such parks on the river.
Looking up the Colorado River toward Glenwood Springs at Two Rivers Park, where the city of Glenwood may someday build a whitewater park. The city has been working since 2013 on securing a recreational water right for three such parks on the river.

The CWCB

Even if an agreement can be worked out with Aurora and Colorado Springs, Glenwood Springs will still need to come to terms with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which recommended in June 2015 that the water court deny the city’s RICD filing.

The CWCB is charged by the state legislature with reviewing proposed RICDs and then making a recommendation to the water court.

When it came to Glenwood’s filing, the CWCB board of directors concluded in an 8-to-1 vote that 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.

The state agency also directed its staff to oppose Glenwood’s filing in water court.

It’s not clear at this point how Judge Boyd might handle the recommendation-to-deny from the CWCB, or if Glenwood Springs might be able to get the CWCB to change its stance opposing the proposed water right.

“If we reach settlements with Homestake it’s possible that the CWCB would then reconsider and change its recommendations,” Hamilton said.

When it comes to reaching terms with Aurora and Colorado Springs, Hamilton said he remains “optimistic.”

“There is diligent ongoing discussion on all sides and good faith efforts being made,” he said. “And if it fails, it fails, and we’ll go to Judge Boyd and start setting deadlines and dealing with things more formally. But I think everybody is giving it a fair shot and seeing if we can get there shy of that.”

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism and the Aspen Daily News are collaborating on coverage of rivers and water. The Daily News published this story on Monday, Sept. 5, 2016.

Fountain Creek stormwater mitigation update

The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.
The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

While the [Fountain Creek Watershed Drainage, Flood Control and Greenway District] has limped along for seven years with more hopes than funding, now it’s flexing some muscle after an injection of $10 million from Colorado Springs Utilities. It was the first of five such payments through 2020 that are part of the city’s deal with Pueblo County for the city’s Southern Delivery System pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir, completed in April.

But so much needs to be done that the money quickly will be absorbed into a long list of projects, leaving the district, again, penniless.

“What we’re going to find out is that $50 million is much less than what we need for that project list,” says district executive director Larry Small, former Springs vice mayor.

The district has conducted a host of studies over the years and done a few projects, including sediment reduction near the confluence of Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River east of downtown Pueblo. Thus far, its projects have been largely funded through grants from such agencies as the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Now, with the Utilities money, it wants to take on the herculean task of trying to reshape the creek.

First up is a bank restoration project along the Masciantonio Trust farm just south of the El Paso County-Pueblo County line where, over the years, the creek’s rushing waters have carved away a massive amount of land, leaving sand bars behind and sending tons of sediment down the creek every year.

“The creek has seriously eroded the bank there,” Small says. “It’s taken 12 acres of farm land.”

The project’s engineering study was launched in July, and a construction contract will be awarded next year, he says, with a budget of $2.5 million.

It’s unclear if the project actually will restore those 12 acres, because that would require a huge amount of fill material, Small says.

“We are looking at an option to restore the creek to the 1955 channel,” he says, “but we have to figure out how to deal with the hole that would leave behind the wall we would have to build.”

The problem, he adds, is that Young’s Hollow flows into the creek at that point and can carry a water flow of up to 6,000 cubic feet per second during heavy storms, so the creek has to be equipped to handle that volume.

“This is a challenge,” he says.

Two more projects for the farm also are planned, he says, noting, “That whole 4-mile stretch is seriously eroded.”

Another project will assess stability and sediment along the entire 51 miles of the creek from Colorado Springs to its confluence with the Arkansas.

“That’s going to generate a project list where we need to do bank restoration,” Small says. Started in May this year, the study will wind up in March and be followed by an evaluation of flood control alternatives, which includes a dam.

That study, also started in May, will address how much land would be required, how a dam would function, what property the district would need to acquire and what permitting processes would be necessary, among other things.

This month, the district began compiling a drainage criteria manual, which will enable the board to evaluate development that takes place within the district and recommend requirements to the jurisdictions at issue, such as city of Fountain, city of Colorado Springs, Pueblo County or El Paso County.

So as Small says, the district has quickly picked up the pace this year.

“As I told some people recently, on May 31, I had one project, and on June 1, I had five projects,” he says.

The biggest single project undertaken by the district so far is dredging the levees east of Pueblo at a total cost of $5.25 million. Funded with additional money from Springs Utilities, Pueblo County and Pueblo’s stormwater enterprise fund, the project will be overseen by the Fountain Creek district, which also will loan $1.25 million to Pueblo to be repaid in 2018, Small says.

The project will begin this year — the district hopes to let the contract this fall — and be finished next year, if all parties sign off on the plan, which is expected, he says. The dredging will start at 18th Street and extend to the creek’s confluence with the river. The job will include removing vegetation and two railroad piers that act as debris traps.

The source of money for projects when the $50 million from Springs Utilities runs out isn’t clear. Small says the board, in coming years, will start researching a ballot measure for a property tax to fund the district. Even after all the projects are built, money will be needed for maintenance, he says.

The district covers all of El Paso and Pueblo counties. One mill would generate roughly $6.85 million from El Paso County taxpayers and $1.6 million from Pueblo County taxpayers, for a total of about $8.5 million a year. (Assessed value of property in El Paso County totals $6.85 billion, and in Pueblo County, $1.66 billion.)

About $8 million a year is a lot for a district that’s never spent more than $480,000 in any single year so far and relied on grants from various agencies and member contributions from Green Mountain Falls, Palmer Lake, Manitou Springs, Fountain, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, El Paso County and Pueblo County.

Any infusion of cash, though, is subject to revenue limits imposed by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, so in early 2015 the district created a companion agency, the Fountain Creek Watershed Water Activity Enterprise. The enterprise is exempt from TABOR revenue caps, Small says, as long as less than 10 percent of its funding comes from state and local grants. The $10 million annual payments for five years from Utilities are not considered grants, he says.

But the Utilities’ payments, while large, won’t fix all the creek’s problems, says Greg Lauer, Fountain city councilor and district board member.

“When you look at the substantial need for projects and maintenance, these numbers barely scratch the surface,” he says. Lauer predicts the board will begin discussing a tax measure next year, though it’s unlikely it would appear on the 2017 ballot.

For one thing, he notes, the board needs “legal clarification.” For example, would a tax measure approved by voters in El Paso County but not in Pueblo County result in the tax being applied only in El Paso County, or would it be considered defeated? Would a tax approved by a majority of voters, regardless of their place of residency, result in it being added to the tax rolls in both counties?

Regardless, Lauer says it’s hard to argue against ongoing funding when the board is reminded regularly by landowners along the creek about flood damage.

For now, though, the board is eager to get long-awaited projects underway with the money it has.

“We are so beyond excited,” Lauer says. “It’s been a long time coming.”

@CSUtilities working to update water supply system. It will take 250 years at current funding level.

Water infrastructure as sidewalk art
Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

From KKTV.com (Dustin Cuzick):

Colorado Springs Utilities Officials respond to claims that water main breaks and sinkholes are becoming more common. They say they’re spending $13 million per-year to fix it.

When a huge sinkhole opened up in the middle of Montebello Drive on Sunday after a water main break, neighbors complained that it was the third in about the last year…

Colorado Springs Utilities officials admit there is a problem. They say that roughly 60% of the city’s 2000 miles of water pipes are at or near the end of their lifespan; many of them are cast-iron and were put in in the 1970’s.

That is why in 2005 they started a water main replacement project; a systematic plan to proactively replace aging water mains before they deteriorate completely.

Right now Colorado Springs Utilities spends $13 million on the program every year. With that money they are able to replace about 8-12 miles of pipeline. That would mean that to replace the entire system could take up to 250 years at the current pace…

Utilities officials say they are planning on asking for a utilities rate increase for the 2017 budget. They will present that proposed increase this fall to the utilities board and the Colorado Springs City Council.

That rate increase would not mean an increase in the program’s budget, officials say the increase would be needed just to maintain the current $13 million budget.

There is no word yet on how much that increase will be because C.S.U. is waiting for the results of a cost of service survey. Those results are expected to be in on Friday.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Ellie Mulder):

About 4 percent of Colorado Springs’ water distribution pipes are more than 100 years old, but it’s the mid-century pipes that are causing problems around the city.

Cast- and ductile-iron pipes installed during the 1950s through the 1970s break more easily than older pipes because they have thinner walls and are more prone to corrosion, said Steve Berry, Colorado Springs Utilities spokesman.

Utilities is continually replacing as many of the problem pipes as possible…

Although crews try to “identify and prioritize areas that need attention,” Berry said, there is no way to track the city’s more than 2,000 miles of pipe. Over the past 20 years, national data has shown that these pipes have a higher failure rate, Berry said. Utilities has budgeted $13 million to upgrade water mains this year.

“It’s not an exact science, especially when you’re dealing with a system that’s as large as ours, and as spread out,” he said.

Repairs are not always straightforward, Berry said.

Simply shutting the water off is “much more complicated than it’s assumed,” he said. Then crews excavate the asphalt and assess the pipe’s condition. After it’s repaired or replaced, the line needs to be re-energized and re-pressurized, which occasionally causes a nearby segment to break.

Open house for #Colorado Springs’ new SDS pipeline draws 1,200 — The Colorado Springs Gazette

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

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Matt Steiner):

More than 1,200 people endured 90-degree temperatures Saturday in eastern Colorado Springs to learn more about Colorado Springs Utilities’ new Southern Delivery System.

During the SDS Waterfest at the Edward W. Bailey Water Treatment Plant on Marksheffel Road, kids and adults interacted with community volunteers at hands-on educational booths. And most of those on hand were treated to a guided tour of the state-of-the art facility…

David Schara, 42, said he is a Colorado Springs native and has watched as CSU and city officials spent more than 20 years planning the Southern Delivery System which began piping water north out of Pueblo Reservoir in late April.

“It’s much needed,” David Schara said. “As the city grows, they had to do something.”

David Schara said he and others have been skeptical over the years since CSU introduced the SDS in the Colorado Springs Water Plan of 1996. According to Schara, the biggest concern was about the capacity of Pueblo Reservoir, which he said has been “pretty low at times.”

The Southern Delivery System cost $825 million. Forte said that presently the SDS takes care of about 5 percent of the Colorado Springs Utilities customers and produces about 5 million gallons of water each day.

During Saturday’s event, CSU handed out free water bottles and had refill stations throughout the event where visitors could rehydrate with water from the Pueblo Reservoir. The hands-on exhibits allowed kids to make snow, touch a cloud, shoot water from a fire hose, and learn more about how CSU uses water supplied by the SDS…

Forte said the Waterfest was designed to thank customers “for their patience” over the last couple of decades while the SDS became reality.

“Our citizen-owners have come out to see what we’ve been talking about for the last 20 years,” Forte said. “It’s just a fun day.”

#Colorado Springs: “Sustainable stormwater funding and management is not optional” — John Suthers

coloradospringsstormwaterimplementationplan072016cover

Click here to read the plan.

Here’s the release from the City of Colorado Springs:

The City of Colorado Springs today released the draft Stormwater Program Improvement Plan designed to dramatically improve the city’s infrastructure and meet federal requirements.

City Public Works Director Travis Easton provided this statement.

“Today the City of Colorado Springs has released a draft Stormwater Improvement Plan. This is significant for our stormwater program, our citizens, and our City. The draft Stormwater Program Improvement Plan reflects strong leadership by the Mayor and City Council. We began this effort last fall and we reached a preliminary draft in January. Today’s release includes updates through July 2016.

“The City’s Public Works Department would appreciate the public’s comments and suggestions for improvement of the plan over the next 60 days. We will take public input into account and release the Plan in final form shortly thereafter.

“Thank you in advance for helping to shape this plan, and being a part of the process.”

Individuals wishing to provide feedback on the plan can contact Richard Mulledy, the City’s Stormwater Division Manager at stormwater@springsgov.com or by mail to: Richard Mulledy, Stormwater Division Manager, City of Colorado Springs, 30 S. Nevada Avenue, Suite 401, Colorado Springs, CO 80901.

The City of Colorado Springs and Colorado Springs Utilities have committed to investing a total of $460 million over 20 years, beginning this year. The commitments essentially replace the city Stormwater Enterprise that was defunded in 2009.

“Fixing the stormwater issues that we inherited stemming from the dissolution of the stormwater enterprise has been a top priority for me and the City Council,” said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers. “Sustainable stormwater funding and management is not optional – it is something that we must do to protect our waterways, serve our downstream neighbors, and meet the legal requirements of a federal permit.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs this week released its draft stormwater plan, which was spurred earlier this year by negotiations with Pueblo County commissioners over permits for the Southern Delivery System.

The 305-page implementation plan mirrors the terms of an intergovernmental agreement, outlining at least $460 million in expenditures over the next 20 years and restructuring the city’s stormwater department. It was released Wednesday on the city’s website (http://coloradosprings.gov).

It’s important to Pueblo because work within Colorado Springs is expected to reduce damage along Fountain Creek.
Work already has started on some of the projects that are expected to benefit Pueblo County as well as Colorado Springs. A total of 61 of the 71 critical projects have downstream benefits to Pueblo and other communities, in a March assessment that included input from Wright Water Engineers, which has been hired by Pueblo County as consultant for Fountain Creek issues.

That list can change, depending on annual reviews of which work is needed, according to the IGA.

The plan also attempts to satisfy state and federal assessments that the existing stormwater services failed to meet minimum conditions of the city’s stormwater permits. An Environmental Protection Agency audit last year found Colorado Springs had made no progress on improving stormwater control in more than two years.

This year, Colorado Springs formed a new stormwater division and plans on doubling the size of its stormwater staff.

The plan includes a funding commitment of $20 million annually by the city and $3 million per year by Colorado Springs Utilities to upgrade creek crossings of utility lines.

The plan acknowledges that Colorado Springs significantly cut staff and failed to maintain adequate staffing levels after City Council eliminated the city’s stormwater enterprise in 2009. Pueblo County suffered significant damage, including the washout of part of Overton Road and excess debris in the Fountain Creek channel through Pueblo, during prolonged flows last May.

Other parts of the Pueblo County IGA expedited funding for flood control studies and projects by the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, as well as providing an additional $3 million for dredging in Pueblo.

Library, Colorado Springs Utilities host water workshop for kids — @csgazette

Cloud in a bottle diagram via BestOfPicture.com
Cloud in a bottle diagram via BestOfPicture.com

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (William J. Dagendesh):

Landin kicked off the demonstration by explaining the value of water and asking where this resource comes from. “It comes from the sewer,” one boy blurted, to which the other children exclaimed with disgust.

Landin explained that Colorado Springs relies on precipitation from snow that falls west of the continental divide 100 miles away. A small portion comes from precipitation from the Arkansas River 40 miles away, she said, and that water travels through pipes down from the Rocky Mountains.

“Water falls to earth as rain, snow and precipitation,” Landin said. “Water later evaporates into the air, creates clouds and falls back to earth as fresh water.”

That’s when Landin discussed Utilities’ water treatment role. “Has anyone cooked spaghetti with unclean water?” Landin asked as children grimaced and shook their heads. “Of course not, that would taste yucky. This is why Utilities cleans up the water before you use it.”

Landin also conducted several water-related games to demonstrate how people receive and use water. In the water system relay, children rolled whiffle balls down half cylinder makeshift ramps to show that most of Colorado Springs’ water is imported from more than 100 miles away, and that the system infrastructure is vast and complex to ensure customers have quality water.

A vapor shower demonstrated that water is used in many ways and that everyone needs to use it wisely to ensure a sustainable future. The white vapor that spilled out of a bucket in a fun way emphasized that taking shorter showers is a great water-conserving idea.

The disappearing water trick game, “Where’s the Water?” emphasized that everyone must conserve and use water wisely. A chemistry experiment showed children how waste water can be restored to its usable state. Two volunteers stirred a chemically treated makeshift waste water-filled beaker only to watch the liquid return to its unclean state.

“It takes a lot to clean up waste water,” Landin said.

The cloud in a bottle and cloud cannon experiments showed that precipitation produces water and that everyone depends on nature for the amount of water available. The latter experiment, in which Landin shot wisps of cloud vapor into the crowd from a black plastic trash can cloud cannon, proved popular with youngsters…

Following the demonstrations, children received a Water Warriors Activity Book filled with water-related crossword puzzles, and fun money and water-saving tips. Energy and water conservation stickers reminded youngsters to take shorter showers and to turn off the water when brushing their teeth.
“This event is an experience kids can carry with them throughout life,” Landin said as children collected their activity books and stickers.

Citizens can learn more about water conservation during the Southern Delivery System Waterfest from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on July 23 at the Edward W. Bailey Water Treatment Plant, 977 Marksheffel Rd. During the event, guests will get to touch a cloud, create a snowball, cool off with a fire hose and participate in a water scavenger hunt.

Tours of the new water treatment plant also will be offered. Everyone is encouraged to wear flat, sturdy shoes and to bring a small item for inclusion in the SDS time capsule scheduled for burial at noon. To learn more visit sdswater.org.