Colorado Springs: Mayor Suthers’ budget calls out stormwater needs

Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain
Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From (Alyssa Chin):

Mayor Suthers released his proposed 2016 budget Monday. The big focus will be on storm water. A problem that’s plagued Colorado Springs for years.

“Several years ago, we had a storm water enterprise,” Suthers said. “With the demise of that, defunding of the storm water enterprise, for the most part we’ve been spending minimal amounts [of money] over the last several years in terms of storm water.”

The city is setting aside $16 million, with an additional $3 million from Springs Utilities for a total of $19 million.

That plan had some tax payers wondering why isn’t that money going toward the roads.

“There were times I felt like I was going to get pulled over for swerving so much even though it was just because of the pot holes,” Mackenzie Tennison said.

The mayor said through all their surveys, roads were the top priority for voters so he expects them to pass the proposed tax increase of 0.62 percent in November. That will give the city the money it needs to fix our roads.

“I don’t agree with, you know, us getting taxed more,” Leafner Tan said. “I’m pretty sure there’s enough money there, and I’m pretty sure there’s also money going somewhere we don’t need to spend money on.”

“You cannot do storm water and roads,” Suthers said. “Storm water is within reach because it’s a relatively less amount of money.”

Suthers added, that unlike previous years, he’s been working with city council on this budget and that nothing about it should surprise them.

There will be a meeting at City Hall on October 20 from 5-7:30 p.m.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Billie Stanton Anleu):

The $268.1 million general fund budget is up $9.4 million, or 3.6 percent, but Suthers said that when adjusted for inflation, the city today spends $86 a year less on each resident than it did in 2000…

Suthers’ priority remains the city’s infamously atrocious roads, most of which need overlays or complete reconstruction. But the mayor is banking on passage of a Nov. 3 ballot issue to provide $50 million a year for five years through a 0.62 percent sales tax increase.

The other overriding need is stormwater projects to ameliorate Fountain Creek flooding effects on downstream Pueblo. Past city stormwater funds have been eliminated, and a federal lawsuit has been threatened by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

If the issue isn’t addressed, it also could threaten the 1041 permit Colorado Springs Utilities got for its $829 million Southern Delivery System, soon to pump water from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs, Pueblo West, Fountain and Security.

So Suthers is squeezing $16 million out of the budget, which would be augmented by $3 million from Utilities, for stormwater projects…

In order to make ends meet, staffing requests, raises and capital projects were left unfunded, Suthers said.

Click here to read the Mayor’s news release and letter to City Council — via Pam Zubeck and the Colorado Springs Independent.

Fountain Creek: Kansas is keeping a watchful eye on potential dams

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):

Kansas has concerns that the effects of a large dam on Fountain Creek are not adequately modeled in a study of flood control and water rights that is nearing completion.

But comments from Kevin Salter of the Kansas Division of Water Resources indicate the modeling done by the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District is “reasonable” when it comes to side-detention ponds.

Kansas is an important player because its 1985 federal lawsuit over the Arkansas River Compact raised storage issues along with wells. The Supreme Court ruled in Colorado’s favor on the storage questions, but new dams would be untested waters.

“The methodology in this draft report appears reasonable to protect water rights below the confluence of Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River for the scenario involving side-detention facilities,” Salter said.

“As for the scenario to construct a multipurpose reservoir on Fountain Creek; Kansas is concerned.”

In an email to a committee looking at engineer Duane Helton’s draft report, Salter said more study is needed to look at the full impact of a 52,700 acre-foot reservoir that would include a 25,700 acre-foot pool for recreation and water supply and 27,000 acre-feet for temporary flood storage.

“Should the actual implementation of detained flood flows on Fountain Creek impact compact conservation storage Kansas would fully expect that those flows be restored,” Salter said.

Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek district, said a more complete evaluation would be made of water rights if a large reservoir is pursued.

“The district will complete a full evaluation of alternatives and a feasibility study of the preferred alternative in the future before any decision is made on flood control facilities, to include multipurpose facilities,” Small said in an email reply.

Helton’s study shows there would be little impacts on water rights if flood control structures allowed a flow of 10,000 cubic feet per second to flow through Pueblo during large floods. Water would be released as quickly as possible following the peak flow.

The study discounted extremely high flows, such as the 1999 or 1965 floods, saying there would be little damage to water rights because the high volume would fill John Martin Reservoir, creating a free river.

Division Engineer Steve Witte said Kansas concerns must be treated carefully, so a new round of litigation isn’t triggered.

Witte would like the 2015 flooding to be studied. Flows on Fountain Creek exceeded the 10,000 cfs mark on three occasions during six weeks of elevated flows. John Martin Reservoir did not fill, so it would be an ideal opportunity to explore how flood storage could be administered, he said.

“I think we need to be careful in any scenario to make sure there isn’t some material depletion,” Witte said.

After the 1999 flood, when Kansas and Colorado were in litigation over the Arkansas River Compact, Kansas raised questions about how such large flows should be divided. Those issues have not been resolved, Witte said.

Another downstream party, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association which owns half of the Amity Canal in Prowers County, said more study is needed to determine the damage if water is detained at lower flows and how water would be allocated after a flood.

The committee looking at the report, which includes some downstream farmers, Kansas, Colorado Springs Utilities, Tri-State and others, will meet again at 10 a.m. Oct. 14 at the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District offices.

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.”

#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.”

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.”

Monument Creek study prepped — The Pueblo Chieftain

Monument Creek, taken looking south from the northern section of Monument Valley Park via Loraxis
Monument Creek, taken looking south from the northern section of Monument Valley Park via Loraxis

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A $600,000 project to produce a flood restoration master plan for Monument Creek is in the works.

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District at its August meeting agreed to manage the project, which will be funded by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Colorado Springs, El Paso County and the Air Force Academy.

A team headed by Matrix Design Group will identify areas of concern within the Monument Creek watershed that are at greater risk for flooding after the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire and damage from heavy flooding in 2013.

“When we get this finished, this will completely develop a master plan for the entire Fountain Creek Watershed,” said Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek district. “If all the plans are implemented, this will be a big benefit to lower Fountain Creek area as well.”

It will look at mitigating damage from the AFA, where tributaries were most heavily affected in the 2012 fire, to the confluence with Fountain Creek.

The Waldo Canyon Fire burned 346 homes in western Colorado Springs, leaving much of the 18,000 acres it destroyed susceptible to increased flooding and erosion. That has also created problems in Upper Fountain Creek watershed as well as Monument Creek.
Those two waterways join in Colorado Springs and flow to Pueblo through Fountain Creek.

A $437,500 study of Upper Fountain Creek and Cheyenne Creek restoration was launched last year and completed on June 30.
The Cheyenne Boulevard drainage improvement demonstration project, a $367,000 effort to reroute floodwater, has started as a result of the study. It will be managed by the district.

The master plan for Fountain Creek south of Colorado Springs was completed in 2011.

The Fountain Creek district was formed in 2009 to deal with problems throughout the entire 932-square-mile watershed. Pueblo and El Paso counties jointly form the district.

The master plan would attempt to identify areas of concern in the watershed that affect public health, safety, infrastructure or critical habitat for Preble’s meadow jumping mouse. It would develop a plan for restoration, including preliminary design and cost estimate.

The project is expected to be complete by the end of 2016.