Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities snags a permit from Fremont County commissioners

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The Fremont County commissioners approved Colorado Springs Utilities’ permit application for the Southern Delivery System through the county today, according to a report from Debbie Bell writing for the Cañon City Daily Record. From the article:

The permit will allow CSU to build a water intake and pump station north of the Arkansas River near Colo. 115, two additional pump stations, 17 miles of 66-inch diameter pipeline and an electric substation and transmission facilities to transport up to 78 million gallons of water a day to Colorado Springs. CSU and its partners, Security and Fountain, already own the water rights and are seeking a long-term method of transportation.

More coverage from the Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):

Colorado Springs Utilities received approval from Fremont County commissioners Tuesday to build a water pipeline from the Arkansas River, the backup plan for the Southern Delivery System. Commissioners voted 3-0 to approve a special review use permit.

While Utilities officials still hope to build a pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir, they were thrilled to finally receive a county approval after more than a decade of planning on the controversial project. “It just makes sure this is the viable alternative we’ve always said it was,” said Utilities’ project manager John Fredell.

The approval was timely. Utilities officials are seeking a permit from Pueblo County, and were supposed to have been in Pueblo tonight for the fifth part of a hearing to find out what conditions that county will attach to approval for a pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir. But Pueblo County on Tuesday postponed it to March 18, the second time it had been pushed back, to give its staff more time to review the project.

Update: Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain:

The approval came with lots of strings attached, as well as some unfinished, frantic bargaining with local water users. The Fremont County route, ranked as a backup plan to SDS through Pueblo County both by Colorado Springs Utilities and the Bureau of Reclamation, would cross 17 miles of mostly uninhabited land on its way to serve Colorado Springs, Security and Fountain water needs…

Fremont County commissioners struggled during a 2-hour meeting Tuesday to develop conditions that would cover unknown conditions centered on the Penrose area. Finally, they gave approval. “It still comes with the expectation that Colorado Springs will negotiate in good faith,” Commissioner Ed Norden said.

The Beaver Park Irrigation Co. and Penrose Water both would like to connect to the pipeline if it is built in Fremont County, but don’t know if they can afford to become partners or how the timing of SDS would affect other water projects already in the works.

The Natural Resources Conservancy Agency has a plan to build flood control detention ponds in Penrose, and is concerned about whether some of the same rights of way needed for the proposed pipeline would interfere.

Florence has been assured that its Arkansas River park would be better protected from floods, and its council supports SDS, but there’s nothing in writing. Colorado Springs has only just begun discussions with the major shareholders on the Lester & Attebery ditch, whose headgate it proposes to rebuild for its river intake.

Beaver Park and Penrose asked for more time to see if deals could be worked out. “One of our major concerns is the environmental impact statement,” said Lissa Pinello, president of the Penrose District. “Without a good estimate, we don’t know if the cost would be too high for us.”[…]

The dilemma for Penrose is that it already is making plans for a $9.7 million project to develop a delivery system for water rights it purchased in the western end of the county. There is an opportunity to save more than $2 million by joining SDS, but state loans and grants already are in place for the existing project. Colorado Springs would bend its own rules and allow Penrose to share rights of way for pipelines if it could not afford SDS, Fredell added. Beaver Park finds itself in similar straits. “There is an awful lot of financial burden that we cannot afford,” said Beaver Park Superintendent Tom Sanders. “We would like to be able to afford getting into this.” Norden, in particular, pushed Beaver Park and Penrose officials on determining what sort of requirement the commissioners could put into the lengthy list of conditions…

In the end, it was Colorado Springs that suggested a plan to resolve the conflict. Fredell laid out a 90-day timetable for negotiations with the two districts, promising to provide more complete cost figures. Colorado Springs also headed off the issue of flood control detention ponds by offering to provide fill for the project from the hole it would be digging for the pipeline. Fredell also assured commissioners that Colorado Springs will reach a written agreement for the park at Florence and has been talking to the Grisenti family on the Lester & Attebery Ditch.

Commission Chairman Mike Stiehl voiced a concern about maintaining both existing flow requirements and potentially more restrictive requirements in the future to maintain water quality for the Eastern Fremont County Sanitation District. Those rights are attached to court decrees, said Colorado Springs Utilities water rights specialist Keith Riley. Earlier in the meeting, the commissioners indicated their concerns would be limited to the portions of the project they permit, leaving water rights and environmental compliance issues to the agencies that are charged to enforce them.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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