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.
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Full reservoirs in the Arkansas River basin point to the need for even more storage when dry years return, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District learned Thursday.
“I don’t think people realize how close we were to spilling water this year,” said Jim Broderick, executive director. “This is the reason you need more storage. People think of storage only during drought and when it’s flooding. We need to get past that and look at additional storage to capture more water.”
The storage situation may not be entirely settled, because heavy rain in May could mean some water safely stored may be released.
“Unless we have another Miracle May, we’ll be all right,” said Phil Reynolds, of the Colorado Division of Water Resources.
To get to “all right,” however, water users have cooperatively released water from Lake Pueblo to meet flood control requirements.
Capacity in Lake Pueblo was decreased by 11,000 acre-feet, to a total of 245,000 acre-feet, this year because of sedimentation. Space for 93,000 acre-feet is reserved for flood control after April 15. That was complicated this year because of high residual storage from 2015.
Aurora, whose water would be first to spill, leased its stored water to farmers last year. The Pueblo Board of Water Works used early leases to move some of its water out of storage, but still has higher than usual levels in reserve.
The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District moved about 1,500 acre-feet into the permanent pool at John Martin. Colorado Parks and Wildlife moved 5,000 acre-feet of water it leased into Trinidad Reservoir.
But the valley may be running out of places to store water.
“Moving forward in how we move and manage water, storage is a key component,” said Alan Hamel, who was president of the Southeastern district board when the Preferred Storage Option Plan was developed and now represents the basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “This basin needs water storage in the upper basin, more in Pueblo and below Pueblo.”
PSOP, which developed in the late 1990s, was abandoned by the district after multiparty negotiations broke down in 2007, but certain elements moved ahead. One of those was how excess capacity in Lake Pueblo could be better used.
Right now, there are about 27,000 acre-feet of water in the so-called if-and-when accounts that might be vulnerable to spills. Another 57,000 acre-feet of winter water likely would not spill this year, unless more water than expected is collected through the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.
About 65,000 acrefeet of Fry-Ark water is expected to be brought into Turquoise Lake through the Boustead Tunnel, if conditions remain average, said Roy Vaughan, manager of the project for the Bureau of Reclamation.
The City Council committed Colorado Springs on Wednesday to spend more than $460 million over 20 years on a stormwater projects pact with Pueblo County.
The intergovernmental agreement, negotiated chiefly by Mayor John Suthers, is expected to resolve Fountain Creek stormwater problems for downstream residents and avert lawsuits threatened by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Department of Justice and by Pueblo County.
Further, the accord would allow Colorado Springs Utilities’ Southern Delivery System to start pumping water as scheduled on April 27.
Pueblo County officials threatened to rescind that $825 million project’s 1041 permit, which they issued in April 2009, if the city didn’t ante up enough guaranteed funding for stormwater projects.
The deal now hinges on a vote by Pueblo County’s three commissioners, set for 9 a.m. Monday.
Any delay of the SDS would reduce the worth of warrants on equipment and work while leaving four partner communities – Colorado Springs, Pueblo West, Fountain and Security – without the water deliveries they expect.
The council, meeting in special session Wednesday, didn’t hesitate to approve the pact. Only Councilwoman Helen Collins, a steadfast foe of government spending, dissented in the 8-1 vote.
The agreement calls for 71 stormwater projects to be completed by 2035. Engineers for Pueblo County and Colorado Springs chose the projects and will review them each year to allow for fluctuating priorities.
The money will be spent in five-year increments, at a rate of $100 million the first five years followed by $110 million, $120 million and $130 million. Any private developers’ projects or other efforts would be in addition to the promised amounts.
If the projects aren’t completed in time, the accord will be extended five years. And if Colorado Springs can’t come up with the money required, the city-owned Utilities will have to do so.
The agreement was tweaked slightly Wednesday, on request of the Pueblo County commissioners, to increase one miscalculated payment to a water district by $332, to add the word “dam” to references to a study of water-control options, and to add “and vegetation” to a clause about removing debris from Pueblo’s city levees. A clause was added to note that after the agreement expires, both sides agree to coordinate and cooperate with one another, as they always will be upstream-downstream neighbors.
“This is basically an investment in this city,” said water attorney David Robbins, a consulting lawyer for the council. “The stormwater facilities would have ultimately had to be built anyway. They benefit your citizens, not just the people downstream.”
Asked about the option for a dam, Robbins said, “It has been studied, studied again, and another study may add to our knowledge, but doesn’t require this city to contribute any more money. The dam would require moving two railroads and an interstate highway. Just the facility relocation costs make it quite expensive.”
Colorado Springs has failed to properly enforce drainage regulations, conduct adequate inspections, require enough infrastructure from developers or properly maintain and operate its stormwater controls, the EPA found during inspections in August.
The downstream victim has been Pueblo County, which saw Fountain Creek sediment increase at least 278-fold since the Waldo Canyon fire in 2012, degrading water quality and pushing water levels higher, Wright Water Engineers Inc. found during a study for the county last year.
Sediment increased from 90 to 25,075 tons a year, while water yields rose from 2,500 to 4,822 acre-feet, the engineers found.
As Colorado Springs development sprawls, the amount of impermeable pavement grows. So the city also is beefing up its long-underfunded Stormwater Division, increasing the staff of 28 to 58 full-time employees, mostly inspectors, and more than doubling the $3 million budget for compliance to about $7.1 million.
The city and Utilities negotiated for nearly a year with Pueblo County, as Colorado Springs has beefed up its stormwater program to fix the problems and fend off the threats of lawsuits.
The Pueblo Board of Water Works would like to see up-front bonding and longer term for an intergovernmental agreement between Pueblo County and Colorado Springs.
Still, it’s probably the best deal possible, the board agreed during comments on the proposed deal at Tuesday’s monthly meeting.
In February, the board provided its input with a resolution recommending certain actions to Pueblo County commissioners.
Colorado Springs City Council approved the deal Wednesday, while Pueblo County commissioners will meet on it Monday. It provides $460 million for stormwater projects over the next 20 years, triggers $50 million in payments over five years for Fountain Creek dams and adds $3 million to help dredge and maintain levees in Pueblo.
“One of the things we encouraged Colorado Springs to do was bond the projects up front,” said Nick Gradisar, president of the water board. “It would be to everyone’s advantage to do the projects sooner rather than later.”
Board member Tom Autobee said the agreement is comprehensive, but was uncertain about the 20-year timeline for improvements.
“What I’d like to see is to extend it beyond 20 years for the life of the project,” Autobee said. “We need to look at that.”
Board member Jim Gardner was assured by Gradisar that Pueblo County is guaranteed a voice in which projects are completed.
“They have a priority list and can’t switch unless both sides agree, as I understand it,” Gradisar said.
“This is a great opportunity to correct the issues,” said Mike Cafasso.
“What we said got listened to,” added Kevin McCarthy. “I think this is the best deal we’re going to get.”
Colorado Springs won’t need the full use of the Southern Delivery System for years, but some can’t wait for the $825 million water pipeline to be turned on.
Pueblo County commissioners heard testimony supporting a proposed agreement with Colorado Springs designed to settle issues surrounding the City Council’s decision to abolish its stormwater enterprise after the county had incorporated it into conditions for a 1041 permit in 2009.
“One in five people in Pueblo County live in Pueblo West and are impacted by SDS,” said Jerry Martin, chairman of the Pueblo West metro board. “With the newest break, we will depend on SDS for a very long time.”
Pueblo West joined the SDS project as a costsaving alternative to a direct intake on the Arkansas River downstream of Pueblo Dam. It shared in the cost of permitting and building the pipeline.
Last summer, it used SDS when its own pipeline broke.
Pueblo West’s main supply comes from the South Outlet Works and crosses under the river. The new break is more severe, Martin explained.
An agreement reached last summer allows Pueblo West to use SDS before it is fully operational, and settled some lingering legal issues related to Pueblo West’s partnership in SDS.
Security Water and Sanitation District, located south of Colorado Springs, also needs SDS to go online before summer, said Roy Heald, general manager of the district.
“Security has an immediate need for water because there are emerging contaminant in our wells,” Heald said.
Seven of the district’s 25 wells into the Fountain Creek aquifer were found to be contaminated earlier this year. The solution is to blend water from the Arkansas River with the well water to dilute contaminants. Right now, Security gets enough water from the Fountain Valley Conduit to make its supply safe. But in summer, water demands will increase, Heald explained.
Larry Small, the executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, said the agreement paves the way for flood control projects seven years after the district was formed.
Small was on City Council when the stormwater enterprise was abolished on a 5-4 vote. He voted against eliminating the fee that was then in place. He was hired to run the Fountain Creek district two years later. The district has representatives from both Pueblo and El Paso counties.
The district was formed by the state Legislature out of concerns about the effect of El Paso County’s growth on Fountain Creek and the danger that is posed to Pueblo.
The $460 million for Colorado Springs stormwater projects over the next 20 years is needed to slow down Fountain Creek, but that doesn’t mean Pueblo would be protected. There are at least 18 projects south of Colorado Springs involving either detention ponds or dams that the district wants to get started on.
That process would get a kick start with $20 million in the next nine months if the agreement is approved by commissioners and Colorado Springs City Council in the next week. Three more payments of $10 million over the next three years would follow under terms of the 1041 agreement.
“This agreement says that we’re not just going to put something in place, but that we’re going to monitor it,” Small told commissioners. “It’s a cooperative, collaborative process. We don’t have to rely on rumors and innuendo.”
The city of Pueblo also would benefit from a potential $6 million in Fountain Creek dredging or levee maintenance projects that would cost the city only $1.2 million over the next three years. Pueblo Stormwater Director Jeff Bailey last week told The Pueblo Chieftain that the city has projects lined up, depending on how the funds are structured.
A separate $255,000 project to dredge between Colorado 47 and the Eighth Street bridge already is in the works. It would be funded by Pueblo County, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, the Fountain Creek district and the state.
For Colorado Springs, SDS is a 40-year solution to provide water both for future growth and redundancy for the major water infrastructure it already has in place. Earlier comments to commissioners from Colorado Springs officials indicated only about 5 million gallons per day initially would flow through the SDS pipeline to El Paso County. It has a capacity of 75 million gallons per day.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said warranties on the project kick in when testing on SDS is completed at the end of this month, however, so Colorado Springs also would like to see the pipeline up and running by next week.
Fountain Creek erosion via The Pueblo Chieftain
Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain
Fountain Creek flooding 1999 via the CWCB
Fountain Creek Watershed
The confluence of Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River in Pueblo County — photo via the Colorado Springs Business Journal
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global
Everyone in the room agreed it needed to be done, but some were nervous about getting bitten or how you’d take the darned thing for a walk. Yet, even the alligator celebrated the partnership.
That was the tone for Monday’s work session of the Pueblo County commissioners to hear comments on a proposed stormwater agreement with Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs City Council and commissioners are anticipating finalizing the agreement next week.
The deal would require Colorado Springs to spend $460 million over 20 years to slow down water in the city, pay the first $20 million in $50 million for Fountain Creek dams south of the city in nine months and pay $3 million to Pueblo for Fountain Creek dredging, among other provisions meant to protect Pueblo.
Those payments are on top of 1041 permit conditions that must be met in order for the Southern Delivery System (a pipeline between Lake Pueblo and Springs) to be operated. The new agreement is needed because Colorado Springs City Council abolished the city’s stormwater enterprise in 2009.
“(Colorado Springs) leadership has the best intentions, but how vulnerable are the funds?” asked Bill Alt, a Fountain Creek landowner. “It’s going to take years to have an effect on the Lower Fountain.”
Alt, who lives just north of Pueblo, explained that Fountain Creek last year carved three new “canyons” on his property — as much as 60 feet wide, 25 feet deep and 1,800 feet long.
“In the words of Yogi Berra, it’s deja vu over and over and over,” he said.
Others joined his concerns, including Hector Arambulo and Frank Childress, who said Colorado Springs growth has made Fountain Creek’s problems more severe and voters have not supported past stormwater control efforts.
Ray Petros, Pueblo County’s water attorney, said the county has multiple options for enforcing the agreement. The funding is guaranteed through Colorado Springs Utilities payments to the city, the contractual arrangement could be battled in Pueblo District Court, the 1041 permit is still enforceable and the federal government also is taking action to make sure Colorado Springs cleans up its act.
“Could you stop SDS from flowing?” Alt asked.
“The remedies under the 1041 are complicated,” Petros answered. “But suspension of deliveries is one of the remedies.”
Several current and former public officials addressed the issue:
John Singletary, former chairman of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, said the agreement could trigger the type of cooperation the district has sought for years.
“Did we get everything we wanted? Probably not,” Singletary said. “But finally, we’ve found a way Pueblo County and El Paso County can work together.”
Mark Carmel, a member of the Pueblo West Metro District board speaking for himself, was less optimistic and said the deal should be made permanent, not just for the 20-year time span it covers.
“What happens after 20 years?” Carmel said. “It’s not right that developers get profits while our people lose their property.”
Larry Atencio, a Pueblo City member speaking for himself, said the deal should also include support for a dam on Fountain Creek if studies show it would be the best protection for Pueblo.
Aurelio Sisneros, former Pueblo County treasurer and a past member of the Arkansas River Compact Administration, said a dam on Fountain Creek is the ultimate solution.
Charles Garascia, who has lived in Pueblo for eight years, said the county needs to look into flood plains and flood insurance alternatives.
Urging approval of the agreement were Jerry Martin, chairman of the Pueblo West board; Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District; and Roy Heald, general manager of the Security Water and Sanitation.
Martin and Heald said their communities need SDS now. Small said the funding provided in the agreement is crucial for its success.
Tom Strand, a Colorado Springs City Council member, said the agreement would ensure cooperation on stormwater projects and eliminate further stormwater challenges as SDS moves ahead.
“It’s a partnership I’m excited to be moving forward on,” Strand said.
Commissioners avoided saying much about the comments made Monday and agreed to consider approval at their regular meeting next Monday.
“We’re going to take careful consideration of all the comments and questions, as well as any others who want to weigh in,” Commissioner Terry Hart said.
Pueblo County leaders on Monday heard from residents who mostly favored a deal that would commit Colorado Springs to spend $460 million cleaning Fountain Creek.
That deal, if finalized, would clear the way for Colorado Springs to turn on its $825 million Southern Delivery System to siphon up to 50 million gallons a day of Arkansas River water northward 50 miles from Pueblo’s reservoir.
The deal also would give Pueblo $125,000 for an engineering study for a water supply project of its own: a possible dam along the creek to create another reservoir.
Pueblo has threatened legal action against Colorado Springs’ fouling of Fountain Creek with sediment-laden stormwater runoff.
The 27 or so Pueblo residents at Monday’s forum included nine who spoke in favor of a draft deal reached with Colorado Springs leaders this month. Two opposed it.
Pueblo County commissioners decided to seek legal advice on the deal Wednesday before voting April 25 — two days before Colorado Springs engineers plan to switch on their new siphoning system.
“Getting to this agreement has been an arduous journey,” Commissioner Buffie McFadyen said.
Failure to filter sediment and contaminants out of stormwater runoff that ruined the creek “has been a decades-long problem,” McFadyen said. “It appears the city of Colorado Springs is actually recognizing its issues. I believe it is sincere.”
Building a dam along a cleaner Fountain Creek “has been a suggestion by community members,” she said, adding that no location has been set and that opponents argue a dam would be a massive sediment trap.
“Could it work? That’s what is so important about doing the engineering study.”
A tainted aquifer and busted water pipe are two more reasons the Southern Delivery System needs to be turned on April 27 as planned, water officials told Pueblo County commissioners Monday.
Security has had to close seven of its more than 25 wells because of contamination in the Widefield aquifer, said Roy E. Heald, general manager of the Security Water District.
Perfluorinated compounds, PFCs that could harm human health, were found in the aquifer in February by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Security has resorted to dilution, but the dilution must be stepped up as summer approaches, Heald said.
“So it’s critical to have the Southern Delivery System turned on this month as scheduled,” he said.
Pueblo West is relying on SDS water. Colorado Springs Utilities sprang to the rescue when a major Pueblo West water pipeline burst in February. Utilities bailed the town out last July, too, after a smaller water line broke.
“This (break) may require us to stay on that (SDS) line for a very long time,” warned Jerry Martin, president of the Pueblo West Water Board.
He, too, urged commissioners to sign an intergovernmental agreement with Colorado Springs so the $825 million water project can start pumping 5 million gallons of water a day from the Pueblo Reservoir to Pueblo West, Security, Fountain and Colorado Springs.
The county threatened last year to revoke the project’s 1041 permit, which it issued to Utilities in April 2009.
Back then, Colorado Springs still was using a stormwater enterprise fund to ameliorate problems on Fountain Creek that wreak havoc on downstream users. The then-City Council eradicated the fund that November, though, infuriating Pueblo County officials who had relied on those stormwater efforts when they signed over the permit.
That permit wasn’t the only worry facing newly seated Mayor John Suthers last year, though.
In October, the U.S. Department of Justice warned Colorado Springs that the EPA might file a lawsuit because of the city’s failure to properly provide, maintain and inspect stormwater controls. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment then echoed that threat.
The city and Utilities have been negotiating for 10 months with Pueblo County, as the city has beefed up its stormwater program to fix the problems and fend off the threats of lawsuits.
Colorado Springs proposed a pact last week that would provide $460 million in stormwater projects, maintenance and operations through the year 2035, money that would be spent over and above grants or other funds.
So the county commissioners’ public hearing Monday was set to hear residents’ opinions on the agreement.
Also urging approval was Larry Small, director of the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District.
Calling it the best stormwater management plan he’s seen in 43 years, Small said: “This is better than efforts we were taking as a community to incrementally deal with (stormwater). This is better because it has measurable objectives. It has clearly defined projects, clearly defined funding and a clear funding source.”
And the key element is a requirement that the city and county jointly reassess the projects and process every year, ensuring communication, collaboration and cooperation, he said.
But some Pueblo residents remained skeptical.
“What choices do you have if Colorado Springs reneges? You can go to court. They have more lawyers than they can use,” said resident Bill Alt.
“The stormwater agreement manual says people with detention ponds must abide by these rules. They’ve had rules for years, and they haven’t been abided by. Are there any penalties for someone who violates it?”
Commission water attorney Ray Petros cited four conditions that ensure compliance: Utilities’ guarantee to provide the money if the city fails to do so, contractural enforcement that can be upheld by Pueblo County District Court, potential permit suspension if obligations aren’t met, and the EPA and state health lawsuit threats that underscore the city’s need to comply.
“So we think it’s enforceable,” Petros said.
John Singletary said he’s comfortable with the pact.
“Did we get everything we want? Probably not. But finally we can find a way that Colorado Springs, El Paso County and Pueblo County can work together,” Singletary said. “When I was on the Lower Arkansas (Water Conservancy District), it meant a lot to me to protect people downstream. I feel very comfortable with how this is drawn up.”
The Colorado Springs City Council is expected to sign the accord during a special meeting Wednesday, and Pueblo County’s Board of County Commissioners is to vote Monday – two days before the SDS is scheduled to start operating.