From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
A contentious jury trial over the value of easements for the Southern Delivery System pipeline crossing Walker Ranches opened Monday in District Judge Jill Mattoon’s courtroom.
Colorado Springs Utilities offered about $100,000 for the easements, and has paid rancher Gary Walker $720,000 for moving cattle to alternate grazing pastures. Walker claims the value of SDS impacts on his land are $25 million, according to court documents. The 66-inch diameter pipeline has a 50-foot permanent easement and 100-foot temporary easement across 5.5 miles of Walker Ranches.
The total length of the SDS pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs is about 50 miles.
Walker spent about eight hours on the stand Monday and Tuesday testifying about the impact SDS has had on his cattle, violating existing conservation easements, introducing toxic materials and invasive species and other issues he has experienced since Colorado Springs constructed the underground pipeline in 2011. Water from the pipeline scar flooded other areas of the ranches and contributed to erosion, Walker said.
Walker stressed throughout that he does not believe he has been treated fairly in his dealings with Colorado Springs.
“After dealing with Colorado Springs since 2011, I’m worried about anything that occurs between you and I,” Walker pointedly told Colorado Springs attorneys during a testy cross-examination.
Colorado Springs in February won an appeal to the state Supreme Court to overturn a $500,000 judgment for court costs awarded by retired District Judge Victor Reyes in December. Walker had claimed Colorado Springs delayed the trial while he accrued costs for expert witnesses.
Colorado Springs is questioning Walker’s basis for damages, claiming conservation easements do not affect the parcels where the pipeline was built and that Pueblo County’s 1041 permit is an agreement between Colorado Springs and Pueblo County, not individual landowners. One of the conditions of the 1041 permit states that landowners should not have out of pocket expenses because of real estate transactions related to SDS.
Because of the large volume of documents in the case, the trial is expected to take about two weeks.
More Southern Delivery System coverage here.