Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities has spent $26.6 M on land-related expenses

April 19, 2014
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs has spent $26.6 million to acquire land for its $984 million Southern Delivery System. Most of the money was spent in El Paso County, although properties in Pueblo West and on Walker Ranches were purchased either permanently or for temporary easements.

Pipeline easements totaled $961,681 for 388 acres in Pueblo County, compared with $2.5 million for 486 acres in El Paso County.

Another $1 million was paid to buy homes in Pueblo West.

The big money was paid for other features of the project in El Paso County, a total of about $22 million.

“It would be misleading to simply do the math on the values above and conclude that more was paid for land in El Paso County than Pueblo County,” said Janet Rummel, spokesman for Colorado Springs Utilities, in an e-mail responding to a request from The Pueblo Chieftain.

Permanent easement prices ranged from 50-90 percent of fee value, while temporary easements are valued at 10 percent per year, varying from one to four years.

“The fee value of land depends primarily on location, but also is subject to size, shape, development entitlement and improvements, if any,” Rummel explained.

“Within the raw water pipeline alignments for SDS, fee values for easements and facilities ranged from $1,389 per acre to almost $20,000 per acre,” Rummel said. “Pueblo West properties were generally valued in the range between $10,900 to $13,000 per acre.”

At the high end of that scale were 6 homes on about 10 acres in Pueblo West purchased for $1.044 million.

But even below that scale were 103 acres, two-thirds in permanent easements, on Walker Ranches, which could be purchased for $82,900, or about $804 per acre. Utilities also paid Walker $600,000 to relocate cattle during construction, as required by Pueblo County’s 1041 permit.

Gary Walker will contest the amount of the easement payment in court this November, one of four cases still in dispute.

Walker also has raised complaints, most recently during a county public hearing, about erosion along the pipeline route. The bulk of the money, however, has gone for the treatment plant, pump station and reservoir sites in El Paso County.

Utilities paid $259,519 for 43 acres for the Bradley Pump Station; $2.4 million for 124 acres at the treatment plant and $19.3 million for a future reservoir site on Upper Williams Creek.

At the reservoir site, T-Cross Ranches, owned by the Norris family, received $9,500 per acre for 791 acres ($7.5 million), while the state land board received $10,500 per acre for 1,128 acres ($11.8 million).

SDS is a pipeline project that will deliver up to 96 million gallons of water daily from Lake Pueblo to Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West.

The figures do not include money Utilities paid to purchase homes in Jimmy Camp Creek at a reservoir site that later was abandoned.

Colorado Springs Utilities has acquired most of the land access needed for the Southern Delivery System

April 2, 2014
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic/Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic/Reclamation

From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

Outside of a handful of parcels tied up in eminent-domain court actions, the city has amassed the vast majority of land needed to complete the 66-inch-diameter line across Pueblo and El Paso counties. And as for those in court, Utilities has been granted possession; at issue is determination of their value.

Which leaves only one other property acquisition needed for the pipeline itself, and a couple dozen others for related projects. Overall, the land-acquisition project is on schedule, if significantly over budget.

“We are pleased to be nearly complete with acquiring the land needed for SDS,” says Utilities project manager John Fredell in a statement. “We have worked hard to be fair with property owners and appreciate their cooperation to advance this critical project for our community and partners.”[...]

The city’s initial foray into acquiring property for the project, in 2003 and 2004, caused an uproar, and a tightening of city real estate acquisition procedures. Utilities, in some cases without Utilities Board approval, had made offers for homes near Jimmy Camp Creek, northeast of the city, for up to three times the homes’ assessed values, plus six-figure moving costs — in one case, $340,000. The city paid $6.1 million for 14 properties and then allowed the former owners to rent for $300 a month indefinitely.

Within a few years, the city abandoned the Jimmy Camp area as a reservoir site due to archaeological values and other factors, and instead chose Upper Williams Creek near Bradley Road.

In 2009 and 2010, Utilities tangled with Pueblo West residents and left some hard feelings in its wake. The buried pipeline, which traverses the back portions of residential lots, can’t be built upon, which residents say renders their yards unusable.

Resident Dwain Maxwell, who’s forced Utilities into condemnation court, says he was paid $1,850 for land his appraisal said was worth $16,500. Meanwhile, he estimates Utilities has spent four times that amount on attorneys. “I feel like they’ve not been honest with us,” he says today.

Gary Walker of Pueblo County is also still in condemnation court with the city, and declined to be interviewed for this story. But he notes in an email that he’s been recognized repeatedly for his stewardship of the land at his ranch, and was the first to sign up for the reintroduction of the black-footed ferret under federal rules. “How do you put a price on the destruction of something so important as our environment?” he asks.

In 2012, Utilities went up against the Norris ranching family for a chunk of land for Upper Williams Creek Reservoir. After the Norrises moved to create their own reservoir, a deal was reached in which the city paid the family $7.5 million for 791 acres.

But the biggest single acquisition was land next to the Norris property owned by the State Land Board. The city paid more than $11.8 million for 1,128 acres, the highest per-acre price paid for pipeline property…

Utilities needs to acquire about 15 additional properties for the reservoir site, but the reservoir won’t be built until SDS’ second phase, from 2020 to 2025, as demand requires. The city also needs 11 more properties for a section of pipe for treated water, Rummel says.

So far, the city has spent $34.6 million on land for SDS. That’s about 38 percent more than the $25 million estimate in 2009 for 274 parcels in Phase 1 and reservoir land. If costs for surveys, appraisals, real estate fees and closings are added, the cost is $45 million, or 22 percent more than the 2009 “all-in” estimate of $37 million.

Water rates, meantime, haven’t increased as much as earlier predicted. Ratepayers saw 12 percent hikes in 2011 and 2012, and 10 percent increases in 2013 and 2014. A 5 percent hike is expected in 2015. Previously, 12 percent annual jumps were forecast from 2011 through 2017.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System on track to be online in 2016

March 20, 2014
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

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

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

he Southern Delivery System is on course to begin operating in 2016.

“It will be complete for testing purposes in 2015,” SDS Permit Manager Mark Pifher told the Lower Arkansas Conservancy District in an impromptu update Wednesday.

SDS is a 50-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs. When completed, it will serve Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West. Nearly all of the pipeline is in the ground, and construction has begun at three pumping stations, including one near Pueblo Dam, Pifher said. While all parts of SDS will be complete by next year, the system will require months of testing before it is put into use.

“When it’s finished, the water won’t be delivered,” Pifher said. “It won’t be pushing water to customers until 2016.”

The Lower Ark district has been in negotiations for years with Colorado Springs on the impacts of SDS, particularly increased flows on Fountain Creek. Pifher updated the Lower Ark board on the progress of stormwater meetings in Colorado Springs.

A committee of El Paso County citizens is working toward putting a stormwater enterprise proposal on the November ballot. Fees would be about the same as under the former enterprise, which Colorado Springs City Council abolished in 2009, Pifher said.

The Lower Ark board also got a review of the U.S. Geological Survey of dams on Fountain Creek from USGS Pueblo office chief David Mau. Noting the study was funded by Colorado Springs (under its 1041 agreement with Pueblo County), Pifher said an alternative for 10 side detention ponds south of Fountain held the most promise for reducing flood impacts on Pueblo. Pifher also downplayed the immediate impacts of SDS on Fountain Creek.

“When we turn it on, it will carry 5 million-10 million gallons per day,” Pifher said.

Over 50 years, that will increase flows up to 96 million gallons per day.

“It will take some time to grow into demand on that system,” Pifher said.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

El Paso Couny: ‘The stormwater task force is leaning toward a new regional authority’ — Mark Pifher

February 20, 2014
Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

El Paso County is moving toward a regional stormwater authority that could be formed in an election this November. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District heard that news Wednesday from Mark Pifher, Colorado Springs Utilities permit manager for the Southern Delivery System.

“The stormwater task force is leaning toward a new regional authority that would be funded by a fee rather than a sales tax or property tax,” Pifher said.

The fee would be based on square footage of impervious surfaces, such as other cities throughout the state, including Pueblo. While no public vote is required for a fee, El Paso County officials recognize that a vote would be prudent to form the authority that would assess the fee, Pifher said.

The latest estimate of stormwater needs in El Paso County is at $724 million, with $192 million in critical needs. Of that, $534 million is needed for Colorado Springs, with $161 million in critical projects. An additional $40 million is estimated so far to deal with impacts from the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires.

The Lower Ark board still is looking at a possible federal lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation for its refusal to reopen an environmental impact study for SDS that calculates impacts without a stormwater system in place. The district is concerned that increased flows from SDS development will worsen conditions on Fountain Creek. Reclamation issued a record of decision for SDS in early 2009, which became the basis for contracts issued the following year. Later in 2009, the Colorado Springs City Council abolished the stormwater enterprise it had formed in 2005 based on its interpretation of a ballot question sponsored by Doug Bruce, who referred to the fee then in place as a “rain tax.”

The stormwater task force formed in 2012 in response to a city attorney’s opinion that the city was obligated to deal with stormwater in order to operate SDS.

More stormwater coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: CSU amends water court applications to remove facilities that will not be built

February 16, 2014
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

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

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

With Southern Delivery System well under construction, Colorado Springs Utilities is cleaning up water court applications that dealt with alternatives that are now off the table. Specifically, a recent amendment to Colorado Springs’ water exchange rights on the Arkansas River removes Elephant Rock reservoir in Chaffee County and a diversion near Penrose in Fremont County as points of exchange.

“Clearly, with the North Outlet Works almost completed, we’re not going to be building a diversion at Highway 115 (near Penrose),” said Brett Gracely, water resources administrator for Utilities.

The plan for Elephant Rock reservoir near Buena Vista met with protests when it was first suggested in Colorado Springs water plans in the 1990s. Colorado Springs kept the plan on the table in several court filings over the years, but looked to Pueblo Dam to build SDS.

Signs that read, “Don’t dam this valley” remained in view of travelers on U.S. 285 for years.w

The signs were taken down after Colorado Springs officials formally declared the Elephant Rock plan dead during a 2012 ceremony in Salida, Gracely said.

The amended application, filed last month in Division 2 water court, allows Colorado Springs to return flows to the Arkansas River from SDS on Fountain Creek for out of priority storage in Lake Pueblo.

The proposed structures in Chaffee and Fremont counties will be removed as they come up for review in water court, Gracely said.

The first phase of SDS should be online in 2016.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

The Pueblo County Commissioners are looking at using SDS interest to fund the Fountain Creek district

January 28, 2014
Fountain Creek Watershed

Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Jeff Tucker):

Pueblo County commissioners Monday studied whether nearly $300,000 in interest payments for Southern Delivery System could be used to provide interim funding for the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District. Interest of an estimated $291,000 is expected to be paid by Colorado Springs Utilities on the balance of $50 million it promised to the district upon completion of the Southern Delivery System.

Under terms of Pueblo County’s 1041 land-use regulations, the interest began accruing in 2012 and will continue to add up until 2016, when SDS is expected to go online. At that time, Colorado Springs will begin making $10 million annual payments to the district. The specific amount is being negotiated, since it was not clearly defined in the 1041 conditions. The money is scheduled to go toward flood control measures that benefit Pueblo, including the construction of a dam or series of dams on Fountain Creek.

Paying the interest in advance would allow the district to use that money to leverage more grants to start work on rehabilitating the creek, said Commissioner Terry Hart.

Right now the district, which includes all of El Paso and Pueblo counties, is out of money and is relying on passing the hat among governmental entities in both counties for operating costs.

Interest payments would be credited back to Colorado Springs Utilities in 2016 when the final fee payment is made.

The commissioners took no formal action, but instructed water lawyer Ray Petros to draft a resolution.

More Fountain Creek coverage here.

‘Eva Montoya was elected to chair the [Fountain Creek district board] last week’ — Chris Woodka

January 26, 2014
Fountain Creek

Fountain Creek

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo City Councilwoman Eva Montoya was elected to chair the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board last week. Colorado Springs Councilman Val Snider will serve as vice chairman. The board’s top job rotates between elected officials in El Paso and Pueblo counties annually. The board has nine members — four from each county and one from the citizens advisory group.

Other Pueblo County members are Commissioner Terry Hart; Melissa Esquibel of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board; and Jane Rhodes, who owns land on Fountain Creek.

Other El Paso County members are Commissioner Dennis Hisey, Palmer Lake Trustee Michael Maddox, and Fountain Mayor Gabe Ortega.

Richard Skorman, of Colorado Springs, represents the CAG, which is made up of members from both counties. On Friday, the board also approved 14 appointments each to the CAG and its Technical Advisory Committee.

The board also renewed Executive Director Larry Small’s contract at $30,000 per year.

Meanwhile the district is keeping an eye out for project dough from Colorado Springs. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

Will the City for Champions drive to boost tourism in Colorado Springs detract from funds for flood control? The question was raised Friday by Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart at the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, who heard the comment in a recent television report.

El Paso County members of the district immediately assured him the funding streams are separate and would not impair a drive to get some sort of stormwater fee or tax on this November’s ballot.

“If we see another major project competing, we sit up and take notice,” Hart said. “We’re looking for a dedicated revenue source for stormwater.”

The question of Colorado Springs stormwater funding has vexed Pueblo County officials since 2009, when City Council abolished a stormwater enterprise created four years earlier and funded for just three years. As part of conditions for a 1041 land use permit for Southern Delivery System, Colorado Springs pledged to keep its stormwater utility in place. The permit even requires other communities that tie onto SDS to have an enterprise like Colorado Springs had in place.

A regional task force began meeting in 2012, when Colorado Springs leadership admitted it should be funding $13 million-$15 million in stormwater projects annually. Two of the largest, most destructive fires in the state’s history have compounded the potential damage from flooding. Richard Skorman, a former Colorado Springs councilman who has worked with the stormwater task force, said it is moving toward a way to fund stormwater improvements on a more permanent basis and place a measure on the November ballot.

El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey and Fountain Creek district Executive Director Larry Small, another former Springs councilman, said Mayor Steve Bach’s City for Champions proposal uses a sales tax incremental financing plan, rather than a direct tax or fee. City for Champions is a $250 million package to fund an Olympic museum, stadium, arena and other improvements designed to draw tourists to the Pikes Peak region. Meanwhile, El Paso County is faced with a backlog of about $750 million in stormwater projects. The city also has shortfalls in transportation and parks funding, Small said.

The Fountain Creek district has the ability to assess a 5-mill tax on property owners in El Paso and Pueblo County under the 2009 law that created it. Last year, the Fountain Creek board agreed to hold off on asking for any tax increase until Colorado Springs and El Paso County dealt with the stormwater issue.

More Fountain Creek coverage here.

5.8 MW hydroelectric generation station under design for the North Outlet Works at Pueblo Dam

January 19, 2014
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

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

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A small hydroelectric generation project at Pueblo Dam is moving into a preliminary design phase. The proposal would create a 5.8 megawatt hydroelectric generator at the recently completed North Outlet Works, which was constructed as part of the Southern Delivery System. It would generate about 21 million kilowatt-hours annually, said Kevin Meador, an engineer with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District at the board’s meeting Thursday.

“We started this process in February 2012, and we have to finish the application by August,” Meador said. “We’ve got the pedal to the metal and we’re pushing to get these tasks done.”

The Southeastern district has partnered with Colorado Springs Utilities and the Pueblo Board of Water Works in an agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation to build the hydro plant.

Power likely would be sold to Black Hills Energy and then to other users. Details are being negotiated.

Right now, the district is working through planning, permitting and technical issues, Meador said.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Colorado Parks & Wildlife: Habitat improvements continue in Arkansas River

January 7, 2014

Arkansas River  levee through Pueblo

Arkansas River levee through Pueblo

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife:

Colorado Parks and Wildlife will continue work in the Arkansas River this month as part of an ongoing habitat improvement project. Anglers may notice heavy equipment and other signs of work, such as cloudy water, in the area.

“The project may create some short-term inconveniences for anglers, but the result will be better fishing for years to come,” Doug Krieger, a senior aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said.

The project is set to begin the week of Jan. 13, and will continue through mid February. The latest improvements will be made between Juniper Bridge and Valco Bridge. Work will occur Monday through Thursday.

Heavy equipment operators will place large boulders and trees along the 1.5 mile stretch, creating deeper pools and an improved river channel design that will hold more trout and other fish species.

“We are creating better habitat for fish to find shelter, feed, reproduce and thrive,” Krieger said. “We will also provide more fish holding structure that anglers seek for good fishing success.”

Anglers are still able to fish in this reach of the river but are reminded to avoid areas around construction and keep away from heavy equipment.

This habitat improvement project work is Phase II of a project that originally began in 2004. Since completion of Phase I in 2005, the Arkansas River through Pueblo has gained a reputation as a premier trout fishing location.

A portion of the Phase II project will consist of making improvements to existing structures, while the remaining construction will provide for the installation of new structures.

From November until the middle of March, outflows from Pueblo Reservoir are fairly stable creating opportunities for anglers to enjoy stream fishing in clear and cool water during times of the year when most streams are locked in winter conditions.

Partners in the project include the City of Pueblo, Xcel Energy, Trout Unlimited, and the Packard Foundation, with matching funding from the US Fish and Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration Program.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The state is preparing to rock the Arkansas River again. Think fish, not electric guitars. Heavy equipment will be in the river in the 1.5-mile reach between the Juniper bridge and Valco bridge to install more boulders and trees in the river below Pueblo Dam. The project is a continuation of an effort that has improved fish habitat along the river.

“The project may create some short-term inconveniences for anglers, but the result will be better fishing for years to come,” said Doug Krieger, a senior aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Water might be cloudy during construction, and there still will be a few trucks on area roads as part of Southern Delivery System construction — about half the number that were rumbling last fall.

The project will begin Monday and continue until mid-February, in order to take advantage of low river levels. The work will create deeper pools and an improved river channel that will hold more trout and other species, Krieger said.

“We are creating better habitat for fish to find shelter, feed, reproduce and thrive,” Krieger said. “We will also provide more fish holding structure that anglers seek for good fishing success.”

Partners in the project include the city of Pueblo, Xcel Energy, Trout Unlimited and the Packard Foundation, with matching funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration Program.

Meanwhile, there will continue to be some truck traffic in the area from the excavation site of the Juniper Pump Station, part of SDS. In December, trucks finished hauling dirt from the Juniper site, located near the base of the dam, to an old gravel pit on the north side of the river. Now, they are hauling rocks away from the construction site. There are fewer trucks on the road now, said Janet Rummel, Colorado Springs Utilities spokeswoman for SDS.

“Not all of the rock is being hauled away,” Rummel said. “A good portion of the boulders will be used at the pump station site for landscaping features, and SDS contractors are collaborating with Lake Pueblo State Park staff to have some of the decorative boulder-sized rocks used for other park improvements.”

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Construction starting up on the Juniper pump station

October 30, 2013
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

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

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

There’s room in a $900 million water pipeline project for all sorts of businesses. Even brick-makers.

Joe Welte, whose grandfather founded Summit Brick and Tile in Pueblo in 1902, gave a brief account of his family’s business at Tuesday’s celebration for local contractors who have worked on the Southern Delivery System. The event also marked the beginning of work on the Juniper Pump Station, the final piece of SDS construction in Pueblo County. He concluded with a story about his brother Tom’s visit to an elementary school, where he asked students to build a wall using either klinkers — bricks deformed by heat — or straight bricks. The students chose straight bricks, saying the wall would tumble with klinkers on the foundation.

“Whether you are starting an education, planning your life or building for our water future, make sure that you use straight brick at the bottom,” Welte said.

Summit Brick is one of about 100 local companies that are benefiting from contracts for SDS, a water delivery pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs that also benefits Pueblo West. Its part is relatively small: 50,000 4-by-4-by-12-inch bricks for the facade of the Juniper Pump Station, which amounts to about two days’ production.

“With the downturn in the economy, this came at a good time,” Welte said.

The bricks played a symbolic role at Tuesday’s event, as representatives of local companies build a wall and received commemorative bricks — made in Pueblo County, of course.

The largest amount of local contracts went to ASI Constructors, which holds three contracts for $50 million. The company builds dams and other water projects all over the world.

“It’s not often that we get to participate in a project of this magnitude in our own backyard,” ASI President John Bowen said.

He touted the safety of the project, 68,000 man-hours without a lost-time accident, and economic benefit, $800,000 in wages, for his company alone.

Government officials from both El Paso and Pueblo counties, including newly elected state Sens. George Rivera of Pueblo and Bernie Herpin of Colorado Springs, attended the event as well.

From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

On Tuesday, the city kicked off construction of the Juniper pump station not far from the outlet from the dam that was built earlier as part of SDS. It’s one of three pump stations that, according to Colorado Springs Utilities, represent some of the largest components of the project; cumulatively, they’ll cost $76.5 million. A third of that will go to Colorado contractors. The prime contractor is Archer Western Constructors of Arlington, Texas.

To update, here are some notes on SDS’ progress, provided by Springs Utilities:

• The SDS pump stations will move water 1,500 feet in elevation from Pueblo Dam to the new water treatment plant under construction in El Paso County. At full capacity, SDS will be able to transport up to 96 million gallons of water per day (MGD) – 18 MGD to Pueblo West and the remaining 78 MGD to the El Paso County partner communities of Colorado Springs, Security and Fountain.

• Garney Construction of Kansas City, Mo., is installing a 0.3-mile, 90-inch-diameter pipeline that will link Pueblo Dam to the Pueblo West Metropolitan District and other project partners. After Colorado Springs, Pueblo West is the second leading beneficiary of the SDS project.

• Major SDS construction work commenced in Pueblo County in 2011 with the start of the new connection to Pueblo Dam. Since then 18 miles of pipe have been installed in Pueblo County and a total of 42 total miles installed project-wide. Recently, the SDS pipeline construction project through Pueblo West was recognized by Engineering News Record as the Best Water Project in 2013 for the mountain states region.

• Construction of the nearly $1 billion project is resulting in significant benefits to the local economy. To date, more than 300 companies and organizations in Colorado have helped plan and construct SDS, including 100 in Pueblo County. Of the more than $362 million spent to plan and build SDS, more than $289 million has gone to Colorado companies.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette:

When complete, the Juniper water pump station in Pueblo will have many motors and one of them will have the horsepower of four Formula 1 racing cars.

It will need it to pump water 1,500 feet in elevation from Pueblo Reservoir to Pueblo West, Fountain, Security and Colorado Springs. Juniper station at Lake Pueblo State Park will be one of three water pump stations needed to move up to 96 million gallons of water up hill 53 miles in the Colorado Springs Utilities’ Southern Delivery System pipeline…

The entire $1 billion project is expected to be completed by April 2016 and could pump 5 million gallons daily at first but with eventual capacity to pump up to 96 million gallons daily.

From the Colorado Springs Business Journal (Rebecca Tonn):

The Southern Delivery System starts construction of the Juniper Pump Station at Lake Pueblo State Park and the last remaining section of pipeline in Pueblo County on [October 29, 2013]. Area businesses that will perform work or provide materials to build SDS components in the county will participate in a brick-laying ceremony, from 2 – 3 p.m.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

An approach to stormwater management is the talk of the town in Colorado Springs

October 26, 2013
Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs City Council and Mayor Steve Bach continue to wrangle over how stormwater funding will be handled. Council president Keith King on Friday said council does not want to expand city government, after Bach chastised council earlier in the week.

Colorado Springs Utilities committed to mitigation of floodwater on Fountain Creek in 2009 as part of its conditions when it obtained a 1041 land-use permit from Pueblo County for Southern Delivery System.

“We’d like to clarify that council is not endorsing the creation of a physical department nor do we have plans to expand city government. We are advocating for the creation of a virtual department, or more accurately, a stormwater appropriations or dedicated funding source,” King said. “This virtual department is strictly an accounting mechanism to inform citizens of how much revenue we are allocating to stormwater and ensures that the funds are solely dedicated to stormwater.”

Council has proposed using $2 million from this year’s fund balance to begin work immediately.

Earlier this week, Bach told council he does not favor creating a new department after the council sent him a letter Oct. 14 saying it would propose a stormwater appropriation department. A “virtual” department would assure the public that stormwater needs are being considered, King said.

“We must commit money from of our general fund for operation and maintenance. We must show our citizens we are serious about addressing the stormwater drainage issues. We must show our friends in Pueblo that we are resolute about how much we are spending,” King said. “Most importantly, we must make sure, as council, that we can audit the numbers and prove our expenditures to the citizens.”

Bach claims $25 million for stormwater, including wildfire mitigation, is included in his budget proposal for next year. The mayor wants to extend current bonds to pay for $100 million in the most critical stormwater needs over five years. Colorado Springs stormwater needs are estimated at about $535 million.

Council is working with an El Paso County stormwater task force to develop a sustainable funding source for projects, as well as a regional approach.

From KRDO (Jonathan Petramala):

Thursday, a couple dozen residents showed up to the first “Stormwater Solutions Town Hall” at the Conservation and Environment Center. Officials sat back and let residents pick through possible solutions to come up with what they believe is most feasible.

“The solution is a regional approach,” said homeowner Sharon Owen.

A regional approach and a willingness to invest in stormwater infrastructure were shared by those in attendance.

“This is what happens when you don’t invest,” said homeowner Bruce Fogarty. “It’s going to be expensive but it’s something that absolutely needs to be done.”

After nearly an hour of residents brainstorming and presenting their ideas, task force members say they plan on taking the ideas brought forward here and at two more town halls to come up with what they hope is a final solution.

“If you don’t plan it, if you don’t do it right you’re wasting your time and energy,” [El Paso County Commission Chairman Dennis Hisey] said.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

“We don’t want to grow government,” Bach said in his remarks to City Council this week.

Bach was reacting to a letter the nine council members sent him earlier this month outlining their plan to create a Stormwater Department and take $2 million from the city’s 2013 rainy day fund to start it.

The idea, said council president Keith King, is to get moving immediately on stormwater projects. He said it would show residents that the city is spending money from its general fund on stormwater projects. And it could be viewed as a good faith commitment should the city council ask residents to approve a fee or tax to pay for stormwater projects, he said.

Bach said his plan to pay for stormwater projects does not require a new tax or fee.

“The prior city council imposed a fee,” Bach said. “It was well meaning, but it didn’t resonate well.”

A short-lived Stormwater Enterprise and its fee was rescinded four years ago and left the city without a dedicated funding source to pay for millions in stormwater and drainage needs, which has been the focus of nearly two years of meetings and discussions. Colorado Springs sits in the northern section of the Fountain Creek Watershed – a 927-square mile watershed that includes three counties and eight municipalities. Legally, the city is responsible to keep the community safe and move stormwater through the city to avoid flooding, keep a safe environment and ensure water quality.

Bach wants residents to extend the voter-approved Springs Community Improvement Program, which was the sale of $88 million in municipal bonds and paid for 29 capital improvement projects. The projects were completed in 2004 and the debt, paid for from the general fund, is scheduled to be paid off in 2016. If voters extended the bond program, the city could spend $175 million on projects in five years and pay back the debt in 20.

The money also could be spent on other city capital improvement projects that have been on hold, Bach said. Road improvement, bridge repair and building repair and renovations have gone untouched for years. Bach’s idea about renewing the SCIP bond program would spend $20 million a year for five years on stormwater projects, $11.5 million on roads and bridges and set aside $1 million a year for city park improvement, he said. And instead of a new city department, all of the projects would be handled by the city’s public works department.

But City Council said the mayor’s plan does not address regional stormwater concerns. A regional stormwater task force, for nearly two years, has described stormwater issues as regional saying that if money is spent north of the city, in the county limits, it benefits entities downstream. The taskforce envisioned a regional tax or fee that would be a permanent source of money for the stormwater and drainage projects, which by some estimates is nearly $700 million. This approach would be a pay-as-you-go method and a fee or tax also would cover the estimated $11 million in ongoing maintenance needs to keep the existing stormwater channels, drainage ponds and other systems in good shape.

“One of the things we need to look at is the entire watershed, from the top of El Paso County to Pueblo,” King said.

From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

The dust-up between City Council and Mayor Steve Bach over stormwater took another turn today when Council President Keith King issued a statement disputing remarks Bach has made in recent days.

As reported on the Independent’s blog on Oct. 16, Council issued a letter to Bach seeking more detail on the 2014 budget and declaring it wanted to create a stormwater department.

More stormwater coverage here.

‘This is the last significant water rate increase we anticipate for the SDS project’ — Gary Bostrom

October 20, 2013
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

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

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

Capital projects dominate the 2014 utilities budget with more than $391 million planned for construction, including $229 million for two massive projects, the Southern Delivery System and bringing the coal-fired Martin Drake and Ray Nixon power plants up to federal Environmental Protection Agency standards.

To the residents, whose utility bills contribute 78 percent of the total utilities operating budget, it means rate hikes to pay for those capital projects. A typical residential customer can expect a $9.37 monthly increase in their utility bills next year, which includes $5.99 for a water rate increase that was approved last year and kicks in Jan. 1. The combined rate increases will bring in an additional $31 million.

Colorado Springs Utilities Chief Planning and Finance Officer Bill Cherrier presented the proposed 2014 utilities budget to the City Council, which doubles as the utilities board of directors…

Utilities is nearing the finish line with one of its largest projects – SDS, a 53-mile water pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs. It’s a $1 billion project that started four years ago and amounted to four straight years of 10- and 12-percent water rate increases. In 2014, utilities will spend $178 million on SDS and expects to complete the project in 2016, said Gary Bostrom, chief of water services.

“This is the last significant water rate increase we anticipate for the SDS project,” Bostrom said.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Several El Paso County water suppliers are interested in Southern Delivery System deliveries

September 25, 2013
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic/Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic/USBR

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Even before a drop of water flows through Southern Delivery System, other El Paso County communities are making plans to hook up to the pipeline.

Donala Water & Sanitation District, which serves 2,600 people north of Colorado Springs plans to begin an environmental impact statement process with Bureau of Reclamation within the next two weeks in order to obtain a long-term storage contract in Lake Pueblo.

Cherokee Metro District, serving about 18,000 people in a community surrounded by Colorado Springs, wants to hook up to SDS in the future.

Those communities will be held to the same environmental commitments, including federal environmental review and stormwater management, under Pueblo County’s 1041 permit.

Donala purchased a ranch south of Leadville for its water rights in 2009, but will need SDS to deliver about 280 acrefeet annually — about 25 percent of its needs. “We have been talking to the city for years,” said Kip Peterson, manager of the Donala District. Donala already has a temporary contract in place to use Colorado Springs water delivery systems to deliver water from the ranch.

Stormwater controls are problematic, because 95 percent of the land in Donala already has been developed, but the district is looking at how to amend its plan to address stormwater, Peterson said.

Like Donala, Cherokee has a contract to buy water from or have its water delivered by Colorado Springs Utilities. Cherokee has a two-year lease from the Pueblo Board of Water Works. Cherokee gets most of its water from wells, but needs additional sources to round out its supply. “Unlike Donala, we don’t yet own any water we could store in Lake Pueblo,” said Sean Chambers, Cherokee manager.

But Cherokee is interested in using SDS for the long-term. Like Colorado Springs, it has some water and wastewater lines that cross Sand Creek, a tributary of Fountain Creek. Those would be held to the same level of scrutiny as Colorado Springs lines.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System update: North outlet works ready to roll, most of the pipe is in the ground

September 22, 2013
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

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

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A major water pipeline through Pueblo County has moved quickly since construction began two years ago. A connection at Pueblo Dam is complete, all but a fraction of Southern Delivery System pipeline is in the ground and work will start soon on the Juniper Pump Station, Colorado Springs Utilities officials told Pueblo County Commissioners last week.

“There has been significant progress on construction in Pueblo County,” said John Fredell, SDS program director for Utilities. That includes more than 18 miles of pipeline through Pueblo West and the northern part of Pueblo County on Walker Ranches.

Under the 1041 permit, Colorado Springs also has committed to spend at least $145 million in mitigation. About $42 million of that has been spent so far.

Commissioners are reviewing Colorado Springs commitments made under the 2009 1041 permit. Terry Hart, Sal Pace and Liane “Buffie” McFadyen all joined the board this year, and were not on the board when the permit was issued. Friday’s meeting was an opportunity for them to evaluate SDS compliance.

SDS also benefits Pueblo West, by more than doubling its water supply capacity and giving it another way to deliver water from Pueblo Dam.

“On our own, it would have been difficult to accomplish this,” Pueblo West Manager Jack Johnston told commissioners. “It’s been a $6 million cost to Pueblo West of a $30 million project.” Pueblo West now has a line that delivers 12 million gallons per day from the South Outlet Works. When SDS is complete, it will have another 18 million-gallon line from the new North Outlet Works. “Everything they committed to has been exceeded,” Johnston said.

Pueblo County staff has received quarterly and annual updates on compliance with the 1041 regulations, said Keith Riley, deputy program director for SDS. During the four-hour hearing there were some complaints from Pueblo West landowners about the way they have been treated as the pipeline crossed their property. But Riley pointed out that condemnation of property was a last resort, and some of the purchases of houses along the route provided materials for Habitat for Humanity and training opportunities for firefighters. Any large project is bound to leave some people unhappy, he said. “My heart goes out to those who have been (adversely) affected,” Riley told commissioners. “Our staff does care about landowners and we plan to respond to each point.”

Hart, who chairs the commission, said the county plans to see that Colorado Springs lives up to its commitment. “We’ve directed staff to match the comments we heard today with the conditions in the 1041 agreement and see if we can settle the differences,” Hart said.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

While Colorado Springs officials painted a serene picture of compliance with Pueblo County 1041 permit conditions, local landowners offered different viewpoints. After listening to a presentation addressing major points of the Southern Delivery System by Colorado Springs Utilities staff, several people took issue with the rosy outlook.

Dwain Maxwell plopped down a 6-inchthick stack of paper and explained how a team of Colorado Springs lawyers outflanked him in court over what he says is a low-ball property appraisal for an easement on his property in Pueblo West.

LaVetta Kay told about how her complaints of workers trespassing on her property were disregarded by SDS management.

Engineer Laurie Clark showed photos of how large areas of pipeline revegetation areas on Walker Ranches have been washed out by relatively light summer storms.

Jane Rhodes talked about how unchecked flows on Fountain Creek continue to wash acres of her ranch land downstream. “I only have two acres, but they’re just as important to me as Gary Walker’s thousands of acres,” Maxwell told the board.

A Pueblo district court jury awarded Maxwell only $1,850, rather than the $2,200 Colorado Springs Utilities first offered him or the $18,500 his own appraiser valued the property. Commission Chairman Terry Hart asked Keith Riley, assistant project director for SDS, why Utilities did not pay Maxwell the amount it originally offered. “What I worry about when I hear about this is that Mr. Maxwell was not properly represented,” Hart said.

“The court ordered us to pay $1,850,” Riley replied.

Maxwell said the construction led to dust and disruption. Revegetation has created 4-foot tall weeds due to overwatering, but little grass. “Their promises have not been followed,” Maxwell said. Construction has created problems for Kay as well.

“I get no communication,” she said. “There’s no accountability. They disrespect me and disregard my property.”

Clark’s photos countered Utilities slides that portrayed orderly green­ belts along the pipeline route. Instead, large ravines that cross the pipeline route were gouged out, ruining revegetation that had begun. Utilities is aware of the problems and is working with Walker to solve them, said Mark Pifher, permit manager.

Rhodes’ problems relate to stormwater control, a long-standing problem on Fountain Creek that she believes will be made worse by SDS. “With all of the water coming from the north, when SDS gets done and in full force, we possibly won’t have any farms on Fountain Creek,” Rhodes said.

Commissioners directed staff to compile complaints according to conditions Colorado Springs agreed to in the 1041 permit and determine if they can be resolved. “This gives us an opportunity to address any issues out there and see where we are headed,” Hart said.

Colorado Springs indicated it would work with Pueblo County in resolving issues. “We take our obligations seriously and are sure that we could meet every one of them,” Utilities CEO Jerry Forte told him.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Southern Delivery System construction has provided a shot in the arm to Pueblo County’s economy, commissioners heard during a meeting last week on the progress of SDS. “There has been a positive economic benefit to Pueblo,” said John Bowen, president of ASI Constructors.

The Pueblo West company won a $50 million contract for construction of the North Outlet Works at Pueblo Dam and some of the pipeline associated with SDS. “We’ve added employees during the recession,” Bowen said. “We are part of balancing the public trust with environmental concerns.”

It is important to ASI and Pueblo County for SDS to stay on course for its 2016 completion, because that will speed up work on Fountain Creek. ASI would be among bidders for future dam projects, he said.

Sherri Weber of M&S Trucking in Boone also spoke of the economic benefits. The company has hauled materials to construction sites for nearly two years under its SDS contract.

Overall, Colorado Springs Utilities said it has spent $60 million with more than 100 Pueblo County contractors. The total spent through the end of July on SDS construction was $382 million.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo County commissioners Friday looked at a menu of issues ranging from economic benefits to environmental damage surrounding construction of the Southern Delivery System pipeline through the county. Hanging over the discussion like a storm cloud, however, was whether Colorado Springs is serious about reining in flood control, as its council once promised. “In light of the recent flooding in Colorado Springs, this is a timely meeting that brings up concerns that have been with us for a long time,” Commissioner Sal Pace said. “The low point was in 2009, with the elimination of the stormwater enterprise.”

It was a repeated theme throughout a four-hour meeting. Resolving Fountain Creek issues played a big role in years of discussions that led to Bureau of Reclamation approval of the $940 million SDS project.

The 1041 permit itself does not require any level of spending or even that a stormwater enterprise has to be in place. It only requires that return flows from SDS do not exacerbate flows, said Mark Pifher, SDS permit manager. That position is being contested by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, which this week decided to sue the Bureau of Reclamation, which issued a favorable record of decision for SDS based on the existence of a stormwater enterprise.

At Friday’s meeting, Jay Winner, Lower Ark general manager, asked Colorado Springs officials why council chose to drop the stormwater enterprise in 2009 while ignoring the main goal of the 2009 Proposition 300, which was to elimi­nate Utilities transfers to the city’s general fund. The move came after Springs voters defeated a 2008 issue to make stormwater payments voluntary. “As elected officials, we felt there was a message from voters that the stormwater fee should be stopped,” said Colorado Springs Councilwoman Jan Martin, the only council member still serving who was on the board in 2009. She voted to repeal the enterprise.

Martin is working on a stormwater task force that plans to put a ballot issue for a stormwater fee or tax on the November 2014 ballot in Colorado Springs and El Paso County. What appears on the ballot depends in part on a prioritization of needs ordered by Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach, who has not cooperated with the task force.

Dorothy Butcher, a former state representative from Pueblo, questioned how much of current stormwater spending in Colorado Springs, reported at $46 million, is addressing the issue of reducing Pueblo flood impacts. “With your potential 2014 ballot initiative, if it’s turned down, what source of revenue will you use?”

Martin said the council would transfer money from other sources, as it is doing now, adding that she is confident voters will support a ballot issue that clearly outlines its purpose, such as last year’s ballot measure to continue a transportation tax.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

The Lower Ark District is moving to file a complaint against Reclamation over SDS Record of Decision

September 20, 2013
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A federal decision on the Southern Delivery System is headed to court. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District is preparing a complaint to file in federal court over the Bureau of Reclamation’s refusal to reopen its record of decision on SDS. The central issue is the abolishment of the Colorado Springs stormwater enterprise in 2009, which was in place when Reclamation granted approval of a 40-year contract for storage, exchange and connection at Pueblo Dam for SDS.

“I’m asking our board to draft a legal complaint against the Bureau of Reclamation,” said Melissa Esquibel, a Pueblo County board member. “We’ve asked the Bureau of Reclamation to reopen the record of decision, and gotten no action. We need to direct staff to draft a lawsuit.”

Lower Ark board members say SDS should not be allowed to deliver water until the stormwater issue is resolved. “If there had not been a stormwater enterprise, SDS never would have gotten a 1041 permit,” said Anthony Nunez, a Lower Ark board member who was a Pueblo County commissioner in 2009.

Last year, the Lower Ark district sent letters to Reclamation asking to reopen the record of decision on the stormwater issue. Reclamation declined to take any action.

This will be the second lawsuit the Lower Ark district has filed against Reclamation, if the board approves it at its October meeting. In 2007, the Lower Ark sued Reclamation over a 40-year storage and exchange contract with Aurora, claiming it illegally allowed the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to move water out of the Arkansas River basin. The lawsuit was settled in 2009, after Aurora and the Lower Ark signed an agreement for mitigation of some of the issues surrounding the contract.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Flood protection for the Lower Arkansas Valley should not be an afterthought. That message was delivered to Colorado Springs Wednesday during a presentation about regional stormwater efforts in El Paso County to the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Protection District. “We quibble about data. What I want to see is the problem fixed,” Lower Ark General Manager Jay Winner told Mark Pifher, point man for the Southern Delivery System.

Colorado Springs Utilities disputes the Lower Ark’s interpretation of state and federal data about water quality. The Lower Ark claims it shows higher flows have increased sedimentation and bacteria in Fountain Creek since Colorado Springs got rid of its stormwater enterprise in 2009. Pifher countered that’s just because of higher peak flows in the past three years. Fountain Creek monitoring has begun and safeguards are built into the Bureau of Reclamation’s contract through an adaptive management program if unexpected pollution occurs, he said. A stormwater task force and Mayor Steve Bach are close to coming to consensus and moving a stormwater issue to the 2014 ballot.

All of which served to aggravate Pueblo County members of the Lower Ark board:

“My heartburn is that the discussions center around the Black Forest and Waldo Canyon as far as Fountain Creek is concerned, but nothing for us” said Melissa Esquibel. “I don’t think anything substantive has happened.”

“It’s been a fractured thing up there since I was a commissioner. It almost doesn’t seem real. We’ve heard the same thing over and over and over,” said Anthony Nunez. “I have to say there is a small amount of trust.”

“We have to put limits on SDS until the stormwater issue is taken on,” said Reeves Brown.

Colorado Springs voters defeated a Doug Bruce measure in 2008 to make payment of stormwater fees voluntary by 30,000 votes, but City Council abolished the stormwater enterprise after a second ballot measure that did not even mention it by name passed in 2009, Winner said. While Bruce campaigned against a “rain tax,” the 2009 Proposition specifically tried to sever utility payments from the Colorado Springs general fund. Council has not ended Utilities payment in lieu of taxes, Pifher said in response to a question by Winner.

Pifher said stormwater fees would be collected again beginning as soon as 2015 if voters approve it in 2014. That didn’t do much to allay fears. “You got what you needed and the stormwater enterprise went away,” Winner said. “Do you see the pattern here?”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Fountain Creek: ‘What I would like to see is for Pueblo to stop being flooded’ — Buffie McFayden

September 3, 2013


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Fountain Creek connects Pueblo with Colorado Springs, and controlling it remains a key issue if the Southern Delivery System is to be turned on in three years. So there is bound to be a torrent of discussion on a stormwater enterprise, dams on Fountain Creek and water quality over the next few months.

Pueblo County commissioners set the stage last week for a Sept. 20 meeting to air issues surrounding the county’s 1041 permit for SDS. While there is a varied menu of issues that were hammered out over several months back in 2008-09, it’s clear that Fountain Creek is at the top of the agenda. “I don’t know if any of this works, because I’ve seen the power of the water,” Commissioner Liane “Buffie” McFadyen said last week after reviewing a federal study of dams on Fountain Creek. “What I would like to see is for Pueblo to stop being flooded and for people in north Pueblo County to keep from losing their land to these floods.”

The commissioners — none of whom were on the board when the 1041 permit was negotiated — also are working through the details of exactly how to handle $50 million, plus interest, that was pledged by Colorado Springs to protect Pueblo from flooding that will be made worse by SDS. Their lawyers are focusing the board on what it can do to keep Colorado Springs on track with the conditions agreed to in the 1041 permit.

But a different set of issues is swirling around the sides.

Chief among them is stormwater. It was taken for granted by the Bureau of Reclamation in the studies leading up to a 40-year contract for SDS to operate from Pueblo Dam. In the 1041 conditions, only the incremental flows directly caused by SDS are mentioned. “It’s a moral question and potentially a legal question,” Commissioner Sal Pace said.

In July, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District claimed flooding has worsened and water quality deteriorated after Colorado Springs City Council eliminated its stormwater enterprise fee in 2009. Commissioners want to hear that report, as well as the rebuttal from Colorado Springs Utilities.

Last week, public wrangling over the stormwater question broke out again in Colorado Springs. Mayor Steve Bach was quoted in the Gazette as favoring a city stormwater fee, while Council President Keith King argued for a regional approach — possibly extending to the confluence and including Pueblo.

The Colorado Springs Council plans hearings of its own in the next few months to sort out which approach voters would be most likely to favor.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Drought news: Water temperatures soar below Pueblo Dam, not enough stored water to make a difference

September 1, 2013


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Wildlife officials are watching water temperatures in the Arkansas River for potential harmful effects on fish. “The combination of low flows and weather are making for uncomfortable conditions for fish up and down the river,” said Doug Krieger, aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. While fishermen have reported finding some dead fish, it appears that fish in the water are not stressed, he added.

As temperatures climbed into the 90s this week, water temperatures in the Pueblo reach of the Arkansas River have hit 80 degrees or higher each day after flows dropped below 40 cubic feet per second at Moffat Street on Monday. Closer to Pueblo Dam, temperatures have been about 70 degrees.

The problem is being complicated by mud that washed into the river near the Nature and Raptor Center earlier this month, said Ben Wurster, of Steel City Anglers and Trout Unlimited. “It’s been so dry, and with no moisture the water heats up,” Wurster said.

There is little that can be done. There are about 5,000 acre-feet of agricultural water stored in Lake Pueblo, but farmers likely want to hold it back to start crops next year. Parks and Wildlife has some water, but not enough to make a difference. Cities have curtailed exchanges into Lake Pueblo, but are not releasing any additional water.

The Pueblo Board of Water Works and Colorado Springs have an agreement to release water to maintain flows of 50 cfs below Pueblo Dam once the Southern Delivery System is in operation. Conditions this week are not dry enough to trigger releases, even if that agreement were active.

In another development, the Bureau of Reclamation and Colorado Springs reached a temporary agreement to release water through the river gate on the North Outlet Works rather than the spillway.

Under its SDS contract, Reclamation will own the North Outlet Works, which was built by Colorado Springs. Details still are being negotiated.

Southern Delivery System: Pueblo County is setting the stage for 1041 hearings

August 27, 2013


It looks like Pueblo County is about to get back in court with Colorado Springs, this time over compliance with the 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System (which is largely complete in the county). Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

Stormwater, revegetation, roads and other details of a county permit for the Southern Delivery System will be discussed at a public meeting next month. The Pueblo County commissioners want to hear comments from the public and discuss the progress of the project with Colorado Springs Utilities, leaving open the possibility of 1041 permit compliance hearings at a later date. “What we envision is a chance for Colorado Springs to respond to questions,” said Terry Hart, chairman of the commission. “We definitely want the ability for public participation.”

The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sept. 20 in the commission meeting chambers at the Pueblo County Courthouse.

Commissioners Monday reviewed issues surrounding SDS that have surfaced in recent months. They include issues of revegetation on Walker Ranches in northern Pueblo County.

Also at issue is a dispute over the interpretation of Colorado Springs stormwater data by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Colorado Last month, water attorney Peter Nichols told the Lower Ark board storm flows have worsened and water quality deteriorated, while stormwater funding decreased from 2009-12. Mark Pifher, SDS permitting manager, responded that there is no correlation between the demise of the stormwater enterprise in 2009 and water quality or volume of flows. He disputed the trends that Nichols found.

Commissioners plan to get more information from Nichols in advance of the Sept. 20 meeting.

At Monday’s meeting, commissioners also looked at the possibility of prepayment on interest from the $50 million Colorado Springs pledged for Fountain Creek flood control.

They also want to review the U.S. Geological Survey study that shows the effectiveness of dams throughout the Fountain Creek watershed.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

The Fountain Creek district approved a Colorado Springs Utilities’ SDS mitigation wetlands project on Friday

August 26, 2013


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Utilities’ plan to improve a portion of Fountain Creek as part of mitigation for the Southern Delivery System got unanimous approval Friday from a board formed to improve Fountain Creek. Meeting in Pueblo, the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District approved a new alignment for the creek and wetlands creation about 25 miles north of Pueblo near Pikes Peak International Raceway.

Allison Mosser, a Utilities engineer, explained the project, which was listed as the No. 5 priority in a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study of projects that could improve Fountain Creek. The project also is among those listed in the district’s corridor master plan. The area is one of the worst on the creek in terms of erosion and sedimentation, she said.

The alignment would mean moving some structures and reinforcing other parts of the bank on the property, which is owned by Utilities. A small part of the creek on the Hanna Ranch also is included, but all costs would be paid by Colorado Springs. Some native willows would be planted for bank stabilization and wetlands would be created or improved. Water for initial seeding of the wetlands would use water from rights owned by Colorado Springs at Clear Springs Ranch, Mosser said.

The Bureau of Reclamation would have final authority over approval of the wetlands, because it holds the SDS permit.

Construction would begin in November and take three months, while planting the wetlands would be completed later in the year.

Monitoring the wetlands would continue for three to five years.

More coverage of the Fountain Creek district meeting from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

A district formed to improve Fountain Creek will team with the U.S. Geological Survey to measure water quality changes caused by runoff from recent fires. The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board Friday approved a contract that will measure the impacts of the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire and this year’s Black Forest Fire.

The Black Forest Fire was the most destructive in Colorado history in terms of homes and vehicles destroyed, and could increase the concentration of certain elements.

The total contract will be $18,000, with $6,000 in federal funds, and the other $12,000 contributed by the district and several El Paso County sources.

Samples will be taken as storms occur. “We’ve already missed three or four opportunities,” said Larry Small, executive director of the district. Two sites on Monument Creek and four on Fountain Creek would be sampled. More than 100 constituents will be tested for contaminants like lead and E. coli.

The USGS indicated last month that it has baseline data. “I think this is an important first step. We’ve been talking about impacts since the Waldo Canyon Fire last year,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart.

Melissa Esquibel, a board member from the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, questioned the value of the study, since it would not thoroughly identify sources and problems caused by subsequent storms.

Hart said this study would provide evidence for more detailed studies later.

Jane Rhodes said more studies are needed downstream to see if fires are impacting Pueblo County, because the study sites are in El Paso County.

“We need to find out what’s in the water to protect our population,” added Pueblo City Councilwoman Eva Montoya.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Fountain Creek: ‘At some point, this board is going to lose its patience’ — Buffie McFadyen

August 20, 2013


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo County commissioners are more than happy to throw some money into the hat to keep a Fountain Creek district afloat. At the same time, patience is wearing thin for El Paso County to come to grips with stormwater funding. “At some point, this board is going to lose its patience with the largest city in the state without a stormwater fee,” said Commissioner Liane “Buffie” McFadyen. “I feel like we’re standing knee-deep in water and not going anywhere.”

Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, asked commissioners Monday to consider the district’s plan to patch funding until 2016. The district is nearly out of funds, and is asking county and city governments to come up with $50,000 to meet administrative needs in 2014. Pueblo County’s share would be $10,000.

If Southern Delivery System comes online in 2016, as projected, the district would begin receiving payments from Colorado Springs toward the $50 million negotiated in the Pueblo County 1041 process. That money is earmarked for Fountain Creek flood control projects that protect Pueblo. Interest from the $50 million could be used as soon as next year to begin planning flood-control projects that could benefit Pueblo. But commissioners still are sore that Colorado Springs City Council eliminated its stormwater enterprise in 2009 and has not replaced it.

Colorado Springs City Council is seek­ing a regional solution to meet $900 million in identified projects in El Paso County. Nearly 80 percent of those are in Colorado Springs. Mayor Steve Bach is pursuing a separate course to prioritize projects. While that discussion continues, the Fountain Creek district has put its own plans for a mill levy election — the district can assess up to 5 mills of property tax — on hold just in case there is an El Paso County stormwater fee election in 2014. “The longer (the Fountain Creek district) goes without passing a mill levy, it limits the time you’re able to do projects,” said Commissioner Sal Pace.

Small pointed to a U.S. Geological Survey study that showed 10 retention ponds south of Fountain would provide protection for Pueblo by cutting 46 percent of the peak flow off a 100-year flood. The SDS money would all go toward those types of projects, or a large dam, an option that is unlikely. But commissioners want results sooner. “If we put the district in mothballs for too long, we defeat the statutory mandate,” said Chairman Terry Hart.

More Fountain Creek watershed coverage here and here.

AWRA Colorado Section summer field trip recap: What happens when you dig a 40 foot hole in the ground?

August 18, 2013


Coffee and bagels at Denver Water just before heading to Pueblo Dam

Every now and again you sign up for the right water tour. The American Water Resources Colorado Section tour of the Southern Delivery System — which is slated to move Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water to serve several Arkansas Valley communities — turned out great.

First off, we visited the valve house for the project at the base of Pueblo Dam.

Valve house north outlet works Pueblo Dam, August 2013

Folks from Colorado Springs Utilities and USBR detailed much of the design and proposed operational facts about the outlet works. The release to the Arkansas River was engineered for 1120 CFS. One of our hosts smiled as he said, “You can feel a vibration when it’s open.”

Valve test north outlet works Pueblo Dam via MWH Global

We also visited the site where CSU is building a new treatment plant out by the Colorado Springs airport. That’s where the MWH Global project manager explained that they had spent most of the week pumping stormwater out of the 40 foot hole that they dug in the wind blown sand soil at the site. It seems that one of those monsoon storms dumped an inch or so of precipitation in 30 minutes. They had accomplished pouring one section of the slab base for the plant that day.

New CSU water treatment plant site, August 2013

Converstion on the bus between stops ranged from the cultural differences between white europeans and the native american tribes to the announcement earlier in the day from Reclamation of a 24 month operating plan for Lake Powell that would reduce deliveries downriver to Lake Mead.

We heard about Castle Rock’s plans to move to 75% renewable supplies from their director, Mark Marlowe.  They’re hoping to eventually only use their wells  to get through a drought.

We also heard some roadside geology from one of the folks at the Colorado Geological Survey. He explained a bit about the Denver Basin Aquifer System and hydraulic fracturing in the Niobrara.

More Southern Delivery System Coverage here and here.

Fountain Creek: Study of dams for flood control a big project for the USGS

July 30, 2013


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

It was a massive task. The question was simple: What are the impacts of building dams at various points on Fountain Creek? To do that, the U.S. Geological Survey broke the 932-square-mile drainage area into 72 subbasins, looked at 1,900 cross-sections and relied on historic information from more than a dozen stream gauges. “We used the information that was available, but engineers always want more information,” David Mau, head of the Pueblo USGS office, told the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District last week.

He was careful to point out that funding, property acquisition and water rights questions were not addressed by the study.

Mau released preliminary findings that show Pueblo would get equal protection from flooding by building one large dam or a series of 44 retention ponds along the creek. Most surprising was the relatively strong protection provided by just 10 detention ponds south of Colorado Springs. But the $570,000 study, expected to be finalized later this year, is just the beginning of protection for Pueblo from the highly variable and sometimes destructive flows of Fountain Creek. The political battles over stormwater still are being waged and the costs of alternatives largely unknown, but it is clear that building a series of smaller structures rather than a large earthen dam would cost less.

The district also must determine in the next few years how to spend $50 million coming to it from Colorado Springs as a condition of its 1041 land-use permit with [Pueblo County].


Four potential scenarios are among 14 modeled by the U.S. Geological Survey:

1. Build 44 detention ponds from the Air Force Academy to the confluence of Fountain Creek at the Arkansas River. Reduction of peak flows: 59%. Reduction of sediment: 18%.

2. Build an 85-foot earthen dam north of the confluence: Peak flows: 56%; sediment: 62%.

3. Build 10 detention ponds between Colorado Springs and Pueblo: Peak flows: 47%; sediment: 8%. 4. Build a diversion channel at the El Paso-Pueblo County line to channel flows into Chico Creek: Peak flows: 42.5%; sediment: 8.4%.

Numbers are based on a 100-year storm centered over downtown Colorado Springs. Peak discharge without any dams is 37,500 cubic feet per second, measured at Pueblo. Sediment load without any dams is 104,000 tons.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

The Pueblo County D.A. will appeal reversal of Judge Reyes’ order for a CWQCC redo for certification of SDS

July 26, 2013


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo District Attorney Jeff Chostner will ask the Colorado Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court ruling on Fountain Creek.

Last week, a three-judge appellate panel overturned District Judge Victor Reyes’ order for the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission to redo its certification of Colorado Springs’ mitigation plan for Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River. The case was originally filed by former District Attorney Bill Thiebaut. “I think there are contradictions within the opinion about what Judge Reyes could and couldn’t do,” Chostner said Tuesday. “They were also wrong on the facts and in saying that he acted in a capricious way.”

One of the major criticisms in last week’s reversal of Reyes’ order was that he chose to adopt Thiebaut’s complaint almost in its entirety. “It’s not unusual for a judge to pick one side over the other,” Chostner said. A petition for a writ of certiorari will be filed with the Supreme Court by the Aug. 29 deadline, Chostner said.

John Barth, a Hygiene water attorney hired by Thiebaut, and Chostner’s staff will work on the appeal.

Reyes issued the order last year for the commission to re-evaluate its certification for Colorado Springs Utilities’ plan for mitigation of impacts from the Southern Delivery System on Fountain Creek and the reach of the Arkansas River from Pueblo Dam to Avondale.

Thiebaut and the Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition opposed the plan, mainly because it relies on an adaptive management program that was spawned in the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement for SDS. The opponents argued for a numerical standard instead.

The state certification is necessary for Army Corps of Engineers’ approval to work in Fountain Creek under the federal Clean Water Act.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

‘They [Colorado Springs] disguise their intentions and do nothing’ — Jay Winner

July 24, 2013


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs leaders have told Pueblo County commissioners the city is not required to address specific stormwater projects or spend a set amount under its Southern Delivery System 1041 permit. It’s infuriated Commissioner Sal Pace, because the position apparently contradicts an June 6 letter in which Colorado Springs pledged to address the needs identified in the permitting process for SDS, a pipeline that will deliver water from Pueblo Dam to El Paso County. “I don’t know if I’m more furious or confused,” Pace said. “All one has to do is read the SDS environmental impact statement and see that the stormwater enterprise is mentioned over and over. In the June 6 letter, they indicated they were committed to addressing their stormwater needs. Now, in one simple letter, the city has reversed all that.”

As a state lawmaker, Pace challenged the elimination of the stormwater enterprise and continues to question the decision as a commissioner.

Pueblo County commissioners are seeking a meeting with Colorado Springs officials to discuss SDS compliance, but no date has been set. Violations of the 1041 permit would have to be addressed at a formal compliance hearing, and are not subject to the individual opinions of commissioners. Apparently, Colorado Springs is taking the position that it is only required to pay $50 million to a Fountain Creek improvement district, spend $75 million on bolstering sewer lines and ensure that SDS does not increase flows under the county permit for its $940 million water supply project. “It is clear the 1041 permit itself does not require or adopt any specific list of capital projects that must be implemented to address Fountain Creek peak flows, run-off volumes or other flood hazards,” Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach and Council President Keith King wrote in a letter to Pace last week. ‘’Nor does the 1041 permit require a specific dollar amount to be allocated toward stormwater projects.”

Comments in March 2012 by City Attorney Chris Melcher that Colorado Springs should be spending at least $13 million annually on stormwater touched off a flurry of stormwater activity three years after council abolished the city’s stormwater enterprise.

An El Paso County task force identified $900 million in capital projects, $686 million in Colorado Springs. Bach launched an independent review of Colorado Springs’ share.

During that time, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District asked the Bureau of Reclamation to reopen its environmental analysis of SDS because it originally assumed the stormwater enterprise was in effect. Last week, the district released figures showing the city’s expenditures on stormwater dwindled to nearly nothing in 2012.

Colorado Springs is spending $46 million on stormwater projects this year, with more than half going toward dealing with impacts from the Waldo Canyon Fire.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The burden of meeting water quality standards will increasingly fall on farmers in the Lower Arkansas Valley as a result of inaction on stormwater in Colorado Springs. “It’s outrageous that they do not want to take the responsibility for stormwater,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “Pueblo and the Lower Ark district have tried to cooperate, but it seems that every­ The federal Food Modernization and Safety Act passed last year puts increased responsibility for water quality on farmers who irrigate and market raw food, Winner said. Lower Ark district studies show that water quality on Fountain Creek has continued to decline since Colorado Springs abolished its stormwater enterprise.

Winner was reacting to news reported in The Chieftain Tuesday that Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach and Council President Keith King say their city is not obligated to do any specific projects or fund stormwater at any certain levels under Pueblo County permits for the Southern Delivery System.

Bach and King made that clear in a letter to Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace last week.

That’s a slap in the face to Winner, who received assurances stormwater would be funded at Colorado Springs City Council meetings in 2005, when the stormwater enterprise was formed, and in 2009, when it was dissolved. But a recent analysis by the Lower Ark district shows funding dropped to almost nothing in 2012. It has increased to $46 million this year, largely because of concerns about funding levels for SDS permits raised by Colorado Springs attorney Chris Melcher last year and the after-effects of the Waldo Canyon Fire. “The enterprise was supposed to fund the backlog of projects,” Winner said. That backlog now is estimated to be $686 million, a figure Bach questions. “They disguise their intentions and do nothing.”

Winner said the stormwater enterprise was listed as reasonably foreseeable in the 2009 environmental impact statement for SDS by the Bureau of Reclamation. “It has to be in place before one drop of water moves through SDS,” Winner said.

Conversely, Reclamation says a stormwater enterprise in Colorado Springs or El Paso County is not reasonably foreseeable in its current evaluation of the Arkansas Valley Conduit. But Reclamation has not reopened the EIS for SDS, despite a Lower Ark request last year.

Winner also questions whether the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District is weighted too heavily in favor of El Paso County. He is critical of the district for focusing on impacts of Waldo Canyon near Colorado Springs rather than downstream impacts. The district was formed in part to satisfy how $50 million in payments from Colorado Springs to improve Fountain Creek would be handled under Pueblo County’s 1041 permit for SDS. The district played a role in the current discussion over stormwater in El Paso County, backing a study that showed Colorado Springs’ stormwater funding lagged far behind other Front Range communities.

However, Colorado Springs leadership has at times ignored the district. For six months in 2011 no representative from Colorado Springs attended Fountain Creek meetings, as reported in the Sept. 24, 2011, Pueblo Chieftain. “I don’t recall that Mayor Bach ever has attended a Fountain Creek board meeting,” Winner added.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

AWRA Colorado Section: AWRA Summer field trip of the Southern Delivery System — Friday, August 16

July 16, 2013


Click here to go to the AWRA Colorado Section website for the pitch and to register.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Transmountain water not subject to just one use

July 7, 2013


From Colorado Springs Style (Joe Stone):

As SDS Program Director John Fredell explains, Colorado water law dictates that water native to Front Range streams and rivers can only be used once. For example, Colorado Springs Utilities can divert Fountain Creek water for use by residential customers, but any of that water not consumed must be treated and released for downstream users. With Western Slope water, Colorado Springs has the right to “use the water to extinction.”

However, Fredell says, no “plumbing”currently exists to allow the Springs to fully consume its Western Slope water. The water gets used once then flows downstream to the Arkansas River via Fountain Creek. By connecting a pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir to the Springs’ water system, the SDS provides the plumbing that will change that. Colorado Springs Utilities will soon be able to exchange water sent down Fountain Creek for water stored in Pueblo Reservoir. “With SDS, we’re basically reusing our water, getting two to three uses of that water, which is extremely valuable.”

Fredell points to several economic benefits of reusing the city’s Western Slope water, including preservation of Arkansas Basin agricultural water rights, which are frequently targeted by growing Front Range cities. Once municipalities acquire agricultural rights and change them to municipal use in Water Court, productive farmland is dried up with little chance of ever being returned to agricultural production.

The immediate benefits of the SDS include revenue for local businesses and jobs for the local workforce. “The SDS is the biggest thing going,” says Fredell, “and we worked hard to get local contractors and companies involved. A lot of people questioned the timing of this project, asking why we would start such a big project during an economic downturn. My answer is, ‘Why wouldn’t you start now?’ You get better pricing on materials and services because of a more competitive market, and you help move the economy forward. This project provides work for over 300 Colorado businesses.” Furthermore, historically low bond rates add up to huge savings over the project’s forty-year finance period.

Officials with Colorado Springs Utilities must also take into account the age of the city’s existing water infrastructure. Bringing Western Slope water to the Springs requires a complex system of twenty-five dams, 200 miles of pipes and four major pump stations in nine counties. That infrastructure is aging, and some parts of the system are more than fifty years old. As parts wear out and fail, the redundancy provided by the SDS will ensure an uninterrupted water supply during repairs and maintenance, which will become more frequent as system components get older.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities has spent $58 million in Pueblo County so far

July 1, 2013


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

About $58 million of the $337.8 million spent on Southern Delivery System so far has gone to contractors in Pueblo County, according to the latest accounting of the project. Now estimated to cost about $940 million, SDS would build a 50-mile raw water pipeline from Pueblo Dam to El Paso County. There are three pump stations along the way and a new water treatment plant in northeast Colorado Springs. The project benefits Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West.

Allison Moser, a Colorado Springs Utilities engineer, gave the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District an update on SDS Friday.

So far, 38 of the 50 miles of underground pipeline — most of it 66 inches in diameter — have been placed. The North Outlet Works at Pueblo Dam has been completed and construction work on the Juniper Pump Station below the dam will begin this fall. The treatment plant in Colorado Springs is under construction, and contracts have been awarded for all three pump stations.

Most of the money for the project has been spent within Colorado, with $165 million in El Paso County, $800,000 in Fremont County and $48 million in the rest of the state. Another $66 million has been spent outside the state, mostly for specialized equipment not manufactured in Colorado, Moser said.

The Fountain Creek district has authority of some parts of SDS that cross the flood plain in El Paso County. That will change, however, because of new 1041 regulation in El Paso County that give county commissioners authority over all utility projects under a 1974 law. The major portion of Fountain Creek affected by SDS is the underground crossing of the pipeline several miles south of Fountain, which would be about 40 feet below the surface. That portion has been redesigned to avoid any disturbance of wetlands, Moser said.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District votes to ask members to pony up dough for solvency

June 29, 2013


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A district formed to protect Fountain Creek is asking its members to contribute $50,000 in 2014 to keep itself afloat. The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District voted Friday to seek contributions from El Paso and Pueblo County, as well as incorporated cities in the two counties in order to stay solvent. The district will run out of money at the end of this year and has no prospect of reliable revenue until 2017, when Southern Delivery System is scheduled to go online. “We’re trying to figure out ways and perspectives about how we can hold the district together for the next few years,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart. “We have to have a short-term plan for the ability to fund projects.”

The Fountain Creek board also voted to ask Pueblo County and Colorado Springs Utilities to pay off an estimated $2.2 million in index funds early in another attempt at funding. The index funds are a form of interest that accrues on the $50 million Colorado Springs pledged to pay the district under Pueblo County 1041 conditions for the Southern Delivery System. Under the March 2009 1041 agreement, Colorado Springs would begin accruing the interest on any payments not made during the first 42 months.

Mark Pifher, a Utilities executive, said Colorado Springs and Pueblo County are still negotiating the formula, and timing for payments and the district’s request could unravel some of those talks.

“Nowhere do we say we’ll take the money right now,” said Fountain Mayor Pro-Tem Gabe Ortega, who chairs the Fountain Creek board.

Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, criticized the plan, saying the district had failed to take full advantage of grant management fees and other potential sources of revenue. He said the Lower Ark has helped fund the district in the past and offered payments from its 2009 court settlement with Aurora that have been underutilized Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek district, dismissed Winner’s comments, saying those options were explored but not adequate to fund the routine operations of the district.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A district formed to fix Fountain Creek likely will wait several years before asking voters for property tax revenues. That’s partly because of an effort in El Paso County to address stormwater that may lead to a 2014 election to fund a solution. Other reasons include a lingering weak economy and the need to show voters accomplishments in the form of successful projects.

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District last week evaluated its long-term strategy following a retreat earlier in the month. “It’s likely the stormwater task force will ask for money in 2014,” said Larry Small, executive director, in his review of the retreat. “We have to look at what’s needed until 2017.” That’s the year the district will begin receiving payments totaling $50 million over a five-year period from Colorado Springs Utilities under its 2009 agreement on 1041 permit conditions with Pueblo County.

The district’s interim strategy is to pass the hat among its member governments to collect $50,000 for administration next year. It also wants an agreement between Pueblo County and Utilities to allow it to collect an estimated $2.2 million in index payments — essentially interest on the $50 million — early from Colorado Springs.

Under the 2009 state law that formed the Fountain Creek District, it can collect up to 5 mills in property tax if voters approve it in Pueblo and El Paso counties. Each mill would generate about $8 million annually in the two counties.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Colorado Springs briefs the Lower Ark about their stormwater program in 2013

June 25, 2013


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs is moving on multiple fronts to address how Fountain Creek will be protected from damaging floods and how water quality will be improved. Some feel more could have been done all along, however.

Mark Pifher, an executive with Colorado Springs Utilities, updated the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District last week on the efforts to address stormwater needs. A regional stormwater task force will finish its second phase this fall. The group determined there are $900 million in stormwater needs in El Paso County, with $680 million of that in Colorado Springs. The next phase will determine how much funding is available and what strategies are needed to secure funds for the remainder. “We have been busy in the last few months, looking at Waldo Canyon and now the Black Forest Fire,” Pifher said. “We will be looking at a longterm solution in Phase 2.”

The task force is looking at different structures for funding, including property tax assessments and a regional authority of a fifth utility — on top of gas, electric, water and wastewater — to fund stormwater projects.

There are other efforts:

Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach also has hired a consultant to review and prioritize stormwater needs.

El Paso County has adopted its own 1041 regulations that address stormwater control in new development.

Colorado Springs is nearing completion of a drainage criteria manual that regulates new construction.

“Whatever happens, there will be a need for an election, even if there is a fee,” Pifher said.

The Lower Ark District has been critical of Colorado Springs for eliminating its stormwater enterprise in 2009. The enterprise would have provided a steady stream of funding toward stormwater projects that would protect Fountain Creek. “I applaud your efforts, but it’s two or three years too long,” said Reeves Brown, a Pueblo County board member.

More stormwater coverage here and here.

Fountain Creek: ‘What things are they doing to rein in the floodwaters that arrive in Pueblo County’ — Terry Hart

May 5, 2013


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Less than $2 million of the $46 million in stormwater projects on Colorado Springs’ list meet the criteria set out by Pueblo County commissioners for a 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System.

The commissioners instructed water attorney Ray Petros to review the list submitted this week to commissioners and Pueblo City Council and he determined that most projects related to either the Waldo Canyon Fire or internal Colorado Springs issues.

“As a starting point, what we’re looking for is a list of major projects that have a significant impact for Pueblo County,” said Commission Chairman Terry Hart. “What things are they doing to rein in the floodwaters that arrive in Pueblo County and to assure water quality?”

The county still wants an accounting of the scope of stormwater control that was envisioned prior to 2009. While Waldo Canyon creates a new set of problems, Colorado Springs had agreed to address past problems on Fountain Creek through the stormwater enterprise, Hart said. Commissioner Sal Pace shared those concerns, adding that Colorado Springs needs to provide evidence of long-term funding, rather than shortterm emergency funds.

“That’s one-time money. What they need to do is show how there will be a continuous supply,” Pace said.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

In response to criticism of his city’s stormwater efforts, Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach visited with several Pueblo community leaders Friday to make the case that the city is working on a stormwater solution. Bach was accompanied by Colorado Springs Council President Keith King, Councilman Merv Bennett and City Attorney Chris Melcher. “What we’re working on are steps to develop a full and definite plan that we can take to voters,” Bach said. “We want to make sure that we’re taking the best approach.”

Bach stressed that the Waldo Canyon Fire, which destroyed 347 homes in Colorado Springs last summer, is the top priority. But the city also realizes its commitment to protect downstream users from disastrous floods. Bach has initiated an independent study after a regional study found nearly $700 million in stormwater needs for Colorado Springs and $900 million for El Paso County. He wants Colorado Springs, not a new regional authority, to confront the problem.

Bach acknowledged the fact that development in Colorado Springs, coupled with the burn scar from the Waldo Canyon Fire, has increased the risk of more dangerous floods on Fountain Creek.

Colorado Springs has to come up with a way to continue annual funding to address stormwater needs that had been identified before 2009, when Pueblo County issued a 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System predicated on the idea that a stormwater enterprise was in place.

Melcher said the Colorado Springs City Council’s hands were tied by voters in November 2009 that effectively eliminated the stormwater enterprise approved by council in 2005.

Bennett said a sustainable funding source for stormwater projects is needed, and King, a former state legislator, suggested several ways that up-front funding could be leveraged.

Bach promised to share more specific information about what Colorado Springs intends to do by no later than this fall.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs stormwater plans fail to address Pueblo county 1041 permit requirements

May 3, 2013


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs may be spending nearly $46 million on stormwater projects this year, but Pueblo County commissioners are trying to determine if the money is being spent in the right places. “It’s fine that they’re spending the money, but it really doesn’t answer our question about whether the list of pre-2009 projects is being addressed,” said Commissioner Sal Pace.

Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach and Council President Keith King Thursday responded to questions raised earlier in the week by commissioners about whether stormwater spending is fulfilling the 1041 permit conditions for Southern Delivery System designed to mitigate flooding on Fountain Creek caused by increased growth from SDS. “Considering these tough economic times and the daunting task of ongoing fire recovery efforts, we are pleased that staff was able to find a way to more than triple the initial projections of funding for stormwater improvements in 2013,” Bach and King wrote in a letter to commissioners and Pueblo City Council.

On Monday, Pueblo County commissioners expressed concern about the progress of a stormwater task force in El Paso County. The task force was formed last year and determined there are more than $900 million in stormwater needs that should be addressed on a regional basis.

Bach, however, is seeking an independent accounting of the $686 million in projects that represent Colorado Springs’ share of the burden. He has advocated for Colorado Springs taking care of its own obligations.

Pueblo County commissioners want to know which of the projects on the list are among the $500 million in identified needs in 2009, when Colorado Springs indicated a stormwater enterprise was in place as part of conditions for the SDS permit. Colorado Springs City Council abolished the stormwater enterprise on a split vote following a 2009 election. Last year, city attorney Chris Melcher offered an opinion that Colorado Springs should be spending at least $13 million annually on stormwater to fulfill its SDS obligations.

“It seems like there is a lot of additional money being spent to address new flooding threats because of the Waldo Canyon Fire,” Pace said Thursday. “Colorado Springs has to meet that need, but that doesn’t replace what they should already be addressing.”

More coverage from the Chieftain:

Colorado Springs this week provided an accounting of $45.7 million in planned expenditures this year to address stormwater concerns.

  • $14.2 million for new grade structures, stabilization projects, operation, maintenance and salaries.
  • $681,000 for Waldo Canyon Fire mitigation projects.
  • $12.8 million for Colorado Springs Utilities projects, including stabilization of lines crossing creeks, and repair of damage from washouts related to the Waldo Canyon Fire.
  • $8.8 million for Camp and Douglas Creek restoration.
  • $1.4 million for Colorado Springs Airport drainage projects.
  • $350,000 for Pikes Peak Highway drainage.
  • $7.5 million for remedial work on the Waldo Canyon Fire emergency watershed projects.
  • More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

    SDS: Pueblo County is looking at advance payments from Colorado Springs for Fountain Creek projects

    May 1, 2013


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Pueblo County commissioners want to explore the possibility of jumpstarting projects on Fountain Creek with advance payment of money promised by Colorado Springs Utilities as a condition for Southern Delivery System.

    “We need clarity on the acceptability of using the $50 million, using it in advance,” Commissioner Terry Hart said.

    Under its 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System, a $1 billion pipeline that takes water from Pueblo Dam to El Paso County, Colorado Springs promised to pay $50 million for flood control projects south of the city that benefit Pueblo County.

    The money is scheduled to begin arriving in five installments to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District in 2016, after SDS goes online.

    But $600,000 already has been paid to the district — $300,000 for a flood control study and $300,000 that was used to complete a master corridor study and as its share to provide interim funding to the district.

    Last week, Hart, who sits on the Fountain Creek board, was approached with the idea of asking for another $100,000 from the Colorado Springs fund to continue interim funding until the district settles on a strategy for securing a funding source. Commissioner Sal Pace asked attorneys if the county could ask for the entire $50 million to be paid sooner.

    “If we bring it in sooner, it could be used to leverage other money,” Pace said.

    Commissioner Liane “Buffie” McFadyen said flooding on Fountain Creek is likely to be more intense after the Waldo Canyon Fire and supported using the money sooner, rather than later.

    Ray Petros, the county’s water attorney, was uncertain if advance payment is possible. Colorado Springs asked for the five-year schedule for mainly financial reasons, and the payment is just one of a series of conditions that must be met over time. “We’d have to be careful from our side that we weren’t acknowledging that SDS wouldn’t be suspended for some other reason,” Petros said.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    County staff and Colorado Springs Utilities are discussing the adequacy of revegetation requirements on the pipeline route of Southern Delivery System through Pueblo West.

    The pipeline is buried, but cuts a 100-foot-wide swath through 7 miles of Pueblo West on its way from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs.

    As part of Pueblo County 1041 conditions for SDS, Colorado Springs is bonded for two years while revegetation is completed. Although droughtresistant species are being used, seeds must be irrigated to sprout. That raised some questions Monday in a work session on SDS issues.

    “We’re in the throes of a drought, and my question is whether this is a good time to do revegetation,” Commissioner Terry Hart said. “If we’re going to be irrigating it for two years and suddenly pull off the water, what happens?”

    Attorney Gary Raso said experts from Colorado Springs Utilities and the county’s consultant, Warren Keammerer, are meeting on the issue, but the results likely won’t be known at the end of two years. The county is concerned that too many “weedy” species will take hold, rather than beneficial grasses.

    “It became clear to me that at the end of two years, the best you could conclude is that it was going in the right direction,” Raso said. “The experts don’t like being tied to (the two-year limit).”

    Hart questioned what recourse the county would have if problems surfaced five years after revegetation was deemed complete. The county has in the past altered the 1041 conditions with Colorado Springs on $2.2 million for dredging Fountain Creek through Pueblo and accepting a $15 million payment for restoration of Pueblo West roads damaged during construction.

    There also are unresolved revegetation issues with the portion of the pipeline that crosses Walker Ranches north of Pueblo West.

    Commissioners agreed that they need to further discuss issues with Keammerer.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

    SDS: ‘My central issue is that we need a concrete plan to identify stormwater needs’ –Terry Hart

    April 30, 2013


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Pueblo County commissioners want Colorado Springs to explain its stormwater plan as soon as possible, and hinted Monday that a hearing on the 1041 permit for Southern Delivery System could be necessary if answers aren’t forthcoming. “We as a community are very concerned that when the stormwater enterprise disappeared, the conditions in the 1041 permit disappeared,” Commission Chairman Terry Hart said. “The community has been patient.”

    Colorado Springs City Council in 2009 eliminated its stormwater enterprise and $13 million annual funding for identified needs. Since then, a new majority of the council has been elected in 2011 and 2013, and Steve Bach was elected mayor under a new governance system. A regional stormwater task force has formed, but apparently it does not have Bach’s support and it won’t begin making recommendations on funding nearly $1 billion in projects until July at the earliest.

    At a workshop Monday, commissioners reviewed several parts of the 1041 permit, including revegetation of the pipeline scar through Pueblo West and Walker Ranches and the potential for acceleration of $50 million in payments for improving Fountain Creek. But the big issue was stormwater. The commissioners want an accounting of which projects were on the Colorado Springs stormwater list, what was addressed when the fee was in place and what remains to be done. “My central issue is that we need a concrete plan to identify stormwater needs and how they are going to pay for it,” Hart said.

    Colorado Springs Utilities has asked Pueblo County to wait until July to hold an explanatory meeting, in order to allow stormwater task force committees to complete their work.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

    Southern Delivery System update: 30 miles of pipe in the ground in 2012

    January 25, 2013


    From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    Here’s an update on SDS’s progress in 2012:

  • Nearly 30 miles of pipeline installed to date — more than half the total pipeline for Phase 1;
  • Nearly all pipeline installed in Pueblo County — with only approximately 0.3 miles remaining;
  • Completion and successful testing of the new Pueblo Dam connection; • Began construction of the first phase of power supply infrastructure for the future Bradley Pump Station in El Paso County;
  • Achieved significant milestone of 500,000 hours worked with no “lost-time” safety incidents;
  • Completed 100 percent design on the water treatment plant and worked closely with contractor to competitively bid construction work packages to achieve best possible price;
  • Advanced design on the raw water pump stations to 90 percent and restructured procurement approach to maximize competition for construction and deliver best value;
  • Acquired all the land needed for construction in Pueblo County with transactions finalized on more than 204 parcels of the nearly 300 total required project-wide;
  • Negotiated cooperative agreement with Mountain View Electric Association allowing Colorado Springs Utilities to provide power service to the Williams Creek Pump Station at lower rates and retaining full long-term operational and financial control of this critical asset; and
  • Hosted multiple, regional business outreach events to encourage local contractor participation — to date, a total of nearly 170 Colorado businesses have performed work on SDS.
    Staff continues to execute a rigorous program management plan to drive for efficiencies and reduce costs in the planning and implementation of the project. The project is currently forecasting completion about $68 million below budget. Greater certainty about the final project cost will be achieved with the execution of construction contracts for the water treatment plant and raw water pump stations, anticipated by early 2013.
  • More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

    Pueblo West Metro District approves 8% increase in water rates and a 13.5% increase in sewer rates

    December 31, 2012


    From The Pueblo West View (Christing Ina Casillas):

    Water and wastewater rates…will change come Jan. 1 for Pueblo West residents now that the budget process has been completed and approved unanimously by the Pueblo West Metropolitan District Board of Directors.

    The 2013 proposed budget calls for an increase in both water and wastewater rates. A rate study presented to the board in early 2012 anticipated an eight percent increase in water rates and a 13.5 percent increase in wastewater rates, according to the budget.

    Four new staff members will be employed in the Water and Wastewater Department and will consist of three utility workers and a water conservation/pretreatment coordinator. The coordinator is tasked to develop, implement and evaluate conservation measure and programs, develop manageable water-use plan for high water consumption customers, among other duties, according to the budget.

    Along with water and wastewater, the district approved capital projects in this year’s budget, including $1 million for the Southern Delivery System, $1.8 million for river pump station connection to SDS, $4.2 million for the construction of the Wild Horse pipeline and $1.5 for the completion of the construction of the bio-solid stabilization pons in the wastewater enterprise fun.

    More infrastructure coverage here.

    Southern Delivery System update: Outlet works and pipeline work mostly complete in Pueblo County

    December 15, 2012


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Southern Delivery System work at Pueblo Dam and pipeline through Pueblo County is substantially complete, and work will begin next year on the pump station below Pueblo Dam. “There are a lot of moving parts, but actually we are ahead of schedule in getting pipeline in the ground,” Allison Mosser, an engineer with Colorado Springs Utilities, told the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board Friday.

    About 14 miles of 51∕ 2foot diameter pipeline through Pueblo West and Walker Ranches is in the ground, as well as some connections that will be needed for the North Outlet Works and Juniper Pump Station. Work is beginning on the pipeline in El Paso County, as well. Some distribution lines already are in the ground. In all, 28 of 50 miles of pipeline are complete, Mosser said.

    Ground will be broken for a water treatment plant in northern Colorado Springs next year and SDS should be in operation in early 2016, Mosser said.

    The district will be asked next month to decide on pipelines and power lines that will cross Fountain Creek on the east side of Interstate 25 near the Pikes Peak International Speedway.

    Mosser also updated the board on progress of Fountain Creek wetlands and realignment work at Clear Springs Ranch, south of Fountain, that is required under Pueblo County 1041 regulations for SDS. That sparked a sharp reaction from board member Jane Rhodes, who lives and farms on Fountain Creek in Pueblo County. “This organization was formed four years ago,” Rhodes said. “A little more ought to be be done to help us. We need projects further down south.”

    Carol Baker of Colorado Springs Utilities stepped in and explained that $50 million has been earmarked for use on Fountain Creek when the project is completed in 2016. “The design (for the Clear Springs Ranch project) is part of the master plan, and will help lots when we’re designing projects further downstream.”

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

    Fountain Creek: Stormwater needs through Colorado Springs and El Paso County could total $1 billion

    November 30, 2012


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Stormwater needs in the Colorado Springs area could total more than $1 billion, while less than $10 million annually in funding is available from year to year. “This is not going to get done overnight,” said Springs Councilwoman Brandy Williams. “It took 30 years to get here, and I hope it won’t take 30 years to get out.”

    An El Paso County stormwater task force Thursday reviewed a partial list of about 500 capital projects in the Fountain Creek watershed with a price tag of more than $760 million, along with annual estimated maintenance needs of $7.5 million annually. The list includes incorporated areas and military bases, and does not factor in a possible $180 million more in projects in unincorporated El Paso County. It will be finalized at the task force’s final meeting in January. Colorado Springs has the greatest need, with $684 million in capital projects and $4.9 million in annual maintenance, while Fountain needs $46 million and the Air Force Academy $24.5 million in construction.

    “We will have identified $1 billion in needs and have only about $10 million budgeted,” said Tim Mitros, stormwater engineer for Colorado Springs. “What we’re going to have to look at in phase II is where the money is coming from.” Some concrete structures are more than 50 years old and reaching the end of their usefulness. New methods of controlling flooding are being explored, he added.

    The meeting also addressed the need for Colorado Springs to control its stormwater in order to turn on the $986 million Southern Delivery System. When SDS was approved by the Bureau of Reclamation and Pueblo County commissioners, a stormwater enterprise was in place. Stormwater funding is just one part of the requirement, said Mark Pifher, a Colorado Springs Utilities executive. The other major piece is a drainage criteria manual, which should be completed by the city of Colorado Springs next spring. “Our hope is that the drainage criteria manual will allow no increase in flows from new development, which would assure that conditions of the permit are met,” Pifher said.

    More coverage of Colorado Springs’ rehab work required by the Waldo Canyon Fire, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    Colorado Springs Utilities will spend about $12 million reinforcing pipelines below Rampart Reservoir, already starting to wash out because of the Waldo Canyon Fire last summer. “Flood flows out of the area are greater than they were before the fire,” said Mark Shea, watershed planning supervisor for Colorado Springs Utilities. He made his comments at a stormwater task force meeting Thursday.

    The severity of flooding is 4 to 10 times worse, even for small storms and swells dry creeks to the point where they overflow their banks. Roads and bridges can be washed out as additional sediment clogs drainages.

    A back­up water supply main runs from Rampart Reservoir, north of the city, where 80 percent of Colorado Springs water is stored. While the reservoir itself will need some rehabilitation, the supply line is of paramount importance, Shea said. Another $25 million to $50 million will have to be spent to protect other parts of Colorado Springs where mud flows are likely in the wake of the fire.

    Ultimately, the sediment would find its way into Monument and Fountain creeks, creating problems for Colorado Springs at its wastewater treatment plant, landowners on Fountain Creek and Pueblo County. The ash from the fire already has caused water quality problems for downstream water users.

    The fire started June 23 and burned more than 18,000 acres, destroyed 350 homes and took two lives before it burned out in July. About 10,600 acres suffered moderate to high damage. Threequarters of the land is in the National Forest, but the impacts of flooding will be felt by area property owners.

    Based on the experience of the Hayman Fire in 2002, it could be years before the worst effects of the fire show up. So far, mulch of straw and wood chips has been spread on the most damaged hillsides to try to stem erosion.

    More Fountain Creek Watershed coverage here and here.

    Colorado Springs Utilities: SDS pipe installed under Fountain Valley Authority pipe

    November 8, 2012

    Pueblo County DA Thiebaut is driving tighter standards for the Arkansas River ahead of increased streamflow from SDS

    November 1, 2012


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut is challenging Pueblo’s response to water quality issues on the Arkansas River. In documents filed Tuesday by Thiebaut’s environmental attorney, John Barth of Hygiene, Thiebaut asked the Colorado Water Quality Commission to deny extension of temporary modifications for selenium and sulfate levels in the Arkansas River from Fountain Creek to Avondale. The commission will decide the matter at a Dec. 10 hearing.

    Thiebaut, who leaves office in January, said he filed the challenge because that reach of river will deteriorate from increased flows down Fountain Creek when Southern Delivery System goes on line. “We have serious water quality problems in Pueblo County that pose a threat to our health, economy and environment,” Thiebaut said. “The SDS system will only make our water quality problems worse.”

    Pueblo has requested temporary modifications for another five years, until 2018, after obtaining extensions from the original waiver in 1998.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

    Colorado Springs plans to spend $28 million on stormwater next year, critics do not see a long-term committment

    October 27, 2012


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado Springs plans to spend $28 million next year on stormwater issues, but local critics say it’s mainly a reaction to last summer’s devastating Waldo Canyon Fire and not a long­term fix for future damage. “It’s a start, but they still need to find a sustainable revenue stream in the future,” said Jay Winner, manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

    City Councilwoman Brandy Williams shared the list of projects with the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board Friday.

    Among the projects are $2 million for the Mirage Channel, which has attracted attention in Colorado Springs media; $2 million in transferred funds from a defunct improvement district; $6.6 million in federal grants, matched by $2.2 million in local funding for stabilizing tributaries; $2 million for street and stormwater staff and programs and $12.8 million for Colorado Springs Utilities fire mitigation or stream fortification projects. About $7 million directly addresses Waldo Canyon drainage stabilization.

    “This is a beginning to a continuous process,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner, who chairs the Fountain Creek board. “As commissioners, we’ve tried to talk to (Colorado Springs) Mayor Steve Bach about the stormwater issues, but he hasn’t met with us to explain anything.”

    Chostner plans to attend a meeting of the El Paso County stormwater task force next week, as it reviews area responses to stormwater needs.

    Winner said it appeared Colorado Springs is shifting city functions like streets, utilities infrastructure and response to the Waldo Canyon Fire into stormwater, rather than strictly addressing issues once covered by the nowdefunct stormwater enterprise.

    “As I look through the list, I don’t think it’s a solution to fix Fountain Creek for the benefit of Pueblo,” Winner said. “I hope in the future they are as concerned with the downstream stormwater needs as they are their own.”

    Pueblo County and the Lower Ark district have asked for annual Colorado Springs stormwater funding levels of at least $15 million.

    More coverage from Daniel Chacón writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. Here’s and excerpt:

    The city and the public utility issued a joint news release Friday outlining their proposed stormwater-related expenditures in 2013. The funding includes $7 million to address impacts caused by the Waldo Canyon fire and $980,000 in salaries and benefits for employees who work explicitly on stormwater projects.

    “I am pleased that our staff has been able to find additional resources for the city’s critical stormwater needs and will be coordinating with Colorado Springs Utilities to ensure their funding is also directed at the most urgent stormwater needs,” Mayor Steve Bach said in a statement.

    For months, Bach advocated Utilities’ financial involvement in funding stormwater, which the four-service utility said it was already doing.

    Helen Migchelbrink, the city’s public works director and city engineer, said the stormwater spending for 2013 was released in anticipation of a meeting Tuesday of a task force that will look at stormwater funding regionally…

    Chairman Anthony Nuñez and Commissioner John Cordova said they wanted to review the city’s list of projects before saying whether the funding was sufficient. But both said Colorado Springs has a long way to go.

    Utilities obtained a permit from Pueblo to build the Southern Delivery System water pipeline with the promise to address stormwater needs.

    “I realize it’s tough times, but with $500 million worth of needs … it seems a little shy,” Cordova said.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Jane Green, who owns property on Fountain Creek south of Fountain, has become a regular at meetings of a district designed to fix the troubled waterway. She’s spoken to the board several times since a flood washed out a levee protecting her home in September 2011, without many clear­cut suggestions about how to go about fortifying the bank before the next wave of water hits. But Friday, the Fountain Creek was moved to begin taking action to help her and other landowners who experience erosion or flooding from sudden storms on the creek.

    “I think we can move forward on this,” said Richard Skorman, a Colorado Springs businessman who sits on the board of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

    Ferris Frost, another woman who owns land in the creek channel and a member of the district’s citizens advisory committee, showed the board slides of her own property. A logjam 100 feet wide by a quarter­mile long clogged an irrigation headgate last year. The creek has cut away 50­foot cliffs over the last three decades. “Jane Green has been to the district three times this year, and found no one to help,” Frost said. “It should be one of our functions.”

    The district did tell her to contact the Corps of Engineers and Natural Resources Conservation Service for help in repairing the levee, and got a permit to do work in the stream, but she had to line up her own materials. The concrete chunks thrown in the creek as a stop­gap measure go against the plans, which were developed during years of meetings leading up to the formation of the district in 2009.

    Jay Winner, manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, said state funds for stream stabilization projects went unused last year. The funds are available for public entities like the Fountain Creek district, but not landowners. Board chairman Jeff Chostner set up a special committee to look into options for grants and programs the district can use to help landowners.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A board dedicated to fixing Fountain Creek took a few more baby steps toward finding permanent funding last week, tempering the desire to get things done with finding the right approach to voter approval. “As I said before, let the discussion begin,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner, chairman of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District. “There are going to be a lot of nuances.”

    Chostner has prodded the board throughout the year to talk about the timing of asking voters for a mill levy. The district’s funds are dwindling, and the only funding in sight is a one-time payment of $50 million to the district in 2016, if Southern Delivery System is online by that time. The district also must ask voters to suspend Taxpayer’s Bill of Right provisions on revenue growth to receive even that money, said general manager Larry Small. Under the 2009 legislation creating the district, which includes all of Pueblo and El Paso counties, the district can assess a tax of up to 5 mills. There are also provisions for subdistricts — a potential way to fund stormwater, for instance — in just parts of the area that would not affect the mill total, Small said.

    The board got some more tools to work with as its discussions continue:

    - The Trust for Public Land agreed to provide advice and technical assistance in a survey of voters regarding the timing and wording of a ballot issue.

    - Sample language for a ballot issue, including stating the district’s objectives, was presented. Flood prevention, water quality, drainage, open space, recreation and wildlife were included.

    - Financial projections show the assessed valuation is $6.32 billion in El Paso County, and $1.56 billion in Pueblo County, or $7.88 billion total. Each mill would raise $7.88 million, representing an annual payment of about $20 for a $250,000 home, or $145 for a $500,000 business.

    More stormwater coverage here and here.

    Colorado Springs to pony up $15.5 for infrastructure protection and stormwater projects in 2013

    October 13, 2012


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    While Colorado Springs continues to meet with El Paso County and other communities on stormwater solutions, some of the money in its general fund and utilities budgets will be going to meet stormwater needs.

    The city budget includes $2.5 million for critical stormwater projects, basically maintaining drainage systems to meet permit requirements.

    Meanwhile, Colorado Springs Utilities has included $13 million in its budget to protect infrastructure from flooding.

    However, until the stormwater task force completes its assessment, it’s unknown how much of the funding could be applied toward the $500 million backlog in stormwater projects. “It is our understanding that the primary purpose of most of the projects that make up the city’s backlog is to improve local drainage conditions and repair and improve local infrastructure, for example, bridges, streets and culverts,” said Janet Rummel, spokeswoman for Utilities.

    About $6 million of the money for stormwater projects in Utilities’ budget would go toward protecting infrastructure from runoff from the Waldo Canyon Fire burn area. Another $2.4 million would go toward realignment of Fountain Creek near Pikes Peak International Raceway, a condition of the Pueblo County SDS permit. Utilities would spend $2.7 million to fortify lines within waterways.

    “Utilities does not have direct oversight for stormwater management in Colorado Springs,” Rummel said. “However, we have a history of investing in improvements along area waterways, while partnering with the city, when there is a nexus to protecting utilities infrastructure.” Mayor Steve Bach, who has proposed that Utilities could find $15 million for stormwater in its $1 billion budget. Utilities, which is governed by City Council, maintains that its services are limited to water, wastewater, gas and electric, but not stormwater.

    More Colorado Springs Utilities coverage here.

    The Colorado Springs Gazette is sifting through receipts from Colorado Springs Utilities’ water tours

    September 16, 2012


    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chacón):

    Other purchases included:

    • $140 for 100 zippered pencil cases

    • $47 for prizes for a water tour quiz

    • $286 to rent two fans to keep participants cool during a lunchtime barbeque at what Utilities calls an SDS warehouse

    Utilities defended the trip, saying the water tour gave participants an up-close look at the city’s water system that couldn’t be replicated with charts and graphs or in one day.

    “Colorado Springs is not like cities such as Denver or Pueblo, which have local, in-town major waterways. Our community’s vast, complex water system includes 25 reservoirs and dams, more than 200 miles of pipes, four major pump stations, and facilities and infrastructure in 11 counties,” Utilities spokeswoman Patrice Lehermeier said in an email.

    “The water tour gives leaders and officials first-hand knowledge of the massive work, equipment, facilities and people it takes to deliver water to Colorado Springs, as well as the ongoing construction of the Southern Delivery System,” she said. “It would be difficult to give people this level of information and insight in such an important investment using another forum. And despite all the talk of pipes and wires, a business, even in utilities, is about building relationships.”

    The water tour started about 25 years ago, Lehermeier said.

    The most recent tour cost $20,200, not $25,000 as originally reported by Utilities.

    More Colorado Springs Utilities coverage here.

    SDS: ‘It seems like Colorado Springs Utilities and city officials are doing a lot of talking’ — Jay Winner

    August 24, 2012


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District has made a formal request to the Bureau of Reclamation to reopen environmental studies for the Southern Delivery System because the 2008 study assumed a Colorado Springs stormwater enterprise was in place…

    “It seems like Colorado Springs Utilities and city officials are doing a lot of talking,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district Wednesday. Forming a regional task force isn’t enough, he said. “They talk as if this could be done by the end of the year, but that’s not going to happen. While they meet with a task force, we’re the ones who suffer.”

    Last week’s letter identified broad concerns about the repeal of the stormwater enterprise, while this week’s letter from Peter Nichols, attorney for the district, deals with more specific points related to SDS documents. The letter points out that the $15 million annually generated by the former stormwater enterprise would have been sufficient to cover the nearly $500 million in backlog of stormwater projects and maintenance identified in Colorado Springs. “Reclamation has a continuing duty to analyze significant changes in conditions that affect the environment and that call into question the original decision,” the letter stated.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

    It turns out that Colorado Springs did need a stormwater enterprise after all: The search for $millions continues

    August 22, 2012


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Chris Melcher, city attorney for Colorado Springs, reiterated Tuesday that he believes the city needs to fund $13 million-$15 million annually in stormwater maintenance or improvements to meet the conditions of 2009 SDS agreements with Pueblo County and the federal Bureau of Reclamation. Those agreements are embodied in the 2010 SDS contract. Since March, when Melcher first gave that opinion, the Pueblo County commissioners have asked for at least $15 million in next year’s budget, and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District suggested $18 million$20 million is needed…

    Mayor Steve Bach has asked Utilities to find $15 million in its budget for stormwater next year. Utilities, which answers to City Council, not the mayor, does not operate a stormwater utility, but maintains that some of its budget goes to stormwater projects.

    More stormwater coverage here and here.

    The Lower Ark Board asks Reclamation to cancel SDS contract until Colorado Springs finds adequate stormwater funding

    August 16, 2012


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board voted Wednesday to send a letter to the Bureau of Reclamation that asks it to immediately revoke the contract.

    “We are asking Reclamation to revoke the contract immediately until Colorado Springs provides evidence that institutional mechanisms, rather than empty political promises, will be used to implement stormwater improvements and maintenance,” the letter states.

    The letter says Colorado Springs should be spending $18 million-$20 million annually on stormwater projects…

    The Lower Ark district insisted on a stormwater enterprise for SDS to reduce impacts on Fountain Creek during earlier rounds of negotiations over water issues with Colorado Springs. The letter also points out how Colorado Springs leaders gave assurances in 2009 that stormwater projects would be funded, despite a decision by City Council to abolish the stormwater enterprise.

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

    Pueblo Dam: Key infrastructure for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project

    August 16, 2012


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    …despite the prominent presence of fun at Lake Pueblo, its primary purpose is to store water for the farms and cities of the Arkansas River basin, as well as provide flood protection.

    Built as terminal storage for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, Lake Pueblo has taken on other uses over the years. Because it is not always full, excess-capacity contracts with the Bureau of Reclamation allow others to use it. The most controversial contracts have been awarded to Aurora, which uses the Fry-Ark Project to take water out of the Arkansas River basin — a purpose not included in the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Act. The Southeastern Colorado and Lower Arkansas Valley water conservancy districts waged protests against that practice, but settled differences through additional payments and conditions placed on Aurora.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The winter water storage program began voluntarily in 1975, after the completion of Pueblo Dam, but had been a part of project planning since the 1930s.

    “We had dirt ditches and deep canals that would fill with weeds and snow. You would spend days cleaning them out, and they’d fill again when you got your next run,” [John Schweizer] said, recalling freezing winter days.

    “As far as I’m concerned, the Pueblo Reservoir was the greatest improvement to the valley. It has been a real boon to agriculture.”

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.

    50th anniversary celebration of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Saturday at Lake Pueblo

    August 14, 2012


    The project got its start with a visit to Pueblo from President Kennedy back in 1962. Here’s the first installment from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole article, Woodka is a terrific writer. Here’s an excerpt:

    But on that day [August 17, 1962], work began to address the problem. Kennedy came to Pueblo to celebrate the signing of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Act the previous day. Local water leaders will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Fry-Ark Project Saturday at Lake Pueblo…

    The Twin Lakes Tunnel was constructed by the Colorado Canal Co. during the Great Depression, while the old Carlton railroad tunnel was used by the High Line Canal Co. to bring in water. In addition, Colorado Springs and Aurora were already building the Homestake Project, which would be intertwined with the Fry-Ark Project as both were built.

    But the government project, a scaled-down version of an earlier, larger plan to bring water from the Gunnison River basin, represented a larger cooperative effort between farmers and municipal leaders in nine counties.

    Since the first water was brought over in 1972, about 2.1 million acre-feet of water has been brought into the Arkansas River basin for irrigation and municipal use. The project also generates electric power at the Mount Elbert Power Plant.


    Woodka details some of the early water history along the Arkansas River mainstem in this report running in today’s Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:

    The Water Development Association of Southeastern Colorado was incorporated in 1946. Pueblo business leaders worked with valley water interests to investigate a Gunnison-Arkansas Project. By 1953, the project was scaled back to the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, and the first hearings began in Congress.

    During the congressional hearings in subsequent years, the project evolved from one primarily serving agriculture to one that included municipal, hydroelectric power, flood control and recreation as well.

    The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District formed in 1958.

    The U.S. House passed the Fry-Ark Act on June 13, 1962; the U.S. Senate, Aug. 6, 1962. President John F. Kennedy signed it into law on Aug. 16, 1962.

    Here’s a short look at Jay Winner, current general manager of the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District, from Chris Woodka Writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    Back in the 1960s, his father Ralph Winner was the construction superintendent for Ruedi Reservoir, the first part of the Fry-Ark Project to be constructed and his family lived on the job site. His father came back in the late 1970s to supervise construction of one of the last parts of the collection system to be built, the Carter-Norman siphon. The siphon draws water across a steep canyon.

    For three summers, Winner, then a college student, worked on the latter project. “It was the most fun I ever had,” he laughed. “I got to play with dynamite.”

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A retired outfitter, [Reed Dils] is now a Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board member and a former representative from the Arkansas River basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “Initially, the flows got worse,” Dils said. “They (the Southeastern district and the Bureau of Reclamation) had chosen to run water in the winter…

    “It became apparent to everyone there was another way to run the river,” Dils said. “Why the Fry-Ark act was passed, recreation mainly meant flatwater recreation. Over time, they learned there are other types of recreation.”

    Here’s the release from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Reclamation and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District invite the public to celebrate the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project’s 50th Anniversary at Lake Pueblo State Park on Sat., Aug. 18. The event is located at Lake Pueblo State Park Visitor’s Center from 9 2 p.m.

    Reclamation, the District and Colorado State Parks and Wildlife are offering free pontoon boat tours around Pueblo Reservoir and free tours of the fish hatchery located below Pueblo Dam. There will also be historical displays and several guest speakers.

    Signed into law by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project is a multipurpose trans-basin water diversion and delivery project serving southeastern Colorado.

    The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project provides:

    - Water for more than 720,000 people
    - Irrigation for 265,000 acres
    - The largest hydro-electric power plant in the state
    - World renowned recreation opportunities from the Fryingpan River to the Arkansas River.

    For more information the 50th Anniversary Celebration – and to see a teaser of the upcoming film! – visit our website at

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.


    Meanwhile, Alan Hamel is retiring from the Pueblo Board of Water Works this month:

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “Little did I know how important the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project would be as I was watching the president’s car traveling down Abriendo Avenue that day,” Hamel said. “Look at all that it has done for our basin and what it will do in the future.”

    Hamel became executive director of the water board in 1982, and was president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the local agency that oversees the Fry-Ark Project, from 2002-04. He is currently serving on the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.

    Southern Delivery System: Reclamation’s EIS incorporated Colorado Springs’ stormwater enterprise which is now defunct

    August 2, 2012


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “As I view it, there were firm commitments made on stormwater and the (SDS) contract requires that the environmental commitments are met,” Mike Connor, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation said Wednesday, meeting with the editorial board of The Pueblo Chieftain.

    In the SDS environmental impact statement, Reclamation states a stormwater enterprise is in place for Colorado Springs. The EIS laid the foundation for the 2010 contract for the project. The contract also incorporates all environmental conditions of Pueblo County’s 1041 landuse permit and state water quality measures. Connor’s goal is to assure the conditions are being met before 2016, when SDS is scheduled to go online. The $1 billion project would pipe water from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West. Because Colorado Springs abolished its stormwater enterprise in 2009, no fees have been collected for the past three years. Meanwhile, Colorado Springs faces a $500 million backlog of stormwater projects and should be paying up to $15 million annually, according to City Attorney Chris Melcher.

    “A plan is not enough,” Connor said. “We need to make sure the resources are there.”

    Meanwhile, Colorado Springs is not alone in needing to fund stormwater improvements. El Paso County faces similar problems. Here’s a report from Scott Harrison writing for From the article:

    Andre Brackin, the El Paso County Engineer, said the area, specifically the communities of Security and Widefield, have only a few drainage channels for runoff to drain into Fountain Creek.

    Those communities were established in the 1950s and have grown since then, said Brackin. He estimated that addressing the area’s stormwater needs would cost $10 million — an amount the county can’t afford…

    The lack of funds means the county also can’t afford to clear vegetation and rubbish out of the few existing drainage channels, such as the one along Widefield Boulevard…

    Ultimately, said Brackin, local leaders must consider enacting some type of regional fee or tax to pay for stormwater improvements. He said the county has a backlog of as much as $100 million in needed improvements.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

    Southern Delivery System update: Next Pueblo County DA promises to continue lawsuit over the project water quality permit

    July 6, 2012


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Jeff Chostner, who beat District Attorney Bill Thiebaut in the June 26 Democratic primary, said he will pursue a lawsuit now under appeal by the state and Colorado Springs. “It would not be judicially efficient to drop it,” Chostner said Thursday. “We will have the expertise to handle the case within our office.”[...]

    “Assuming that it’s not resolved by the end of Bill’s term, we will continue with the case,” Chostner said.

    Would he take the case to the state Supreme Court if the appeal goes in the state’s favor? “Let’s handle that one when the contingency arises,” Chostner said.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

    Southern Delivery System: Reclamation moves test of new Pueblo Dam North Outlet Works to Monday

    June 22, 2012


    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    The flow test originally planned for the new outlet at Pueblo Dam…will now be held on Monday morning, June 25. No flow tests are planned for the weekend.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


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