Southern Delivery System: Pueblo County wants Colorado Springs to spend $50 million on mitigation

A picture named sdspreferredalternative.jpg

Here’s an update on Colorado Springs Utilities’ 1041 permit from Pueblo County for their proposed Southern Delivery System, written by Chris Woodka for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The proposed conditions also seek continued funding of sewer improvements and stormwater controls in Colorado Springs, limits on out-of-basin water transfers, and new agreements on protecting Arkansas River flows and Lake Pueblo levels. Money would be earmarked for further study of flood control on Fountain Creek. Pueblo County commissioners will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Pueblo County Courthouse to hear public comment and consider the recommendations, which were released Wednesday and are posted on the county’s Web site. There is also an appendix that has a more complete list of conditions under the permit…

The $50 million would be paid out over five years after completion of the SDS pipeline. The funding would include a small amount, $300,000, for a study of a dam or dams for flood control on Fountain Creek. The remaining $49.7 million would go to support Fountain Creek upgrades listed in the Army Corps of Engineers 2008 report on the Fountain Creek Watershed, the Fountain Creek Corridor Master Plan and future projects not yet identified. If a Fountain Creek Flood Control and Greenway District is created by the state Legislature, it would manage the funds. Otherwise, the county and SDS partners would create a Fountain Creek Restoration Foundation to carry out the projects, according to staff recommendations…

“I’ve only looked at it real quickly, but it looks consistent with what our staff has talked about,” said John Fredell, SDS project director. “I’m hoping these are workable conditions.” Colorado Springs council members and management will take the county’s staff recommendations and compare the cost of complying with them against the cost of coming out of Fremont County to make a “good business decision,” Fredell said…

The recommendations seek a guarantee that Colorado Springs will spend an additional $75 million on sewer improvements by the year 2024, on top of the $114 million it has spent since 2000. Sewer upgrades are also required to meet the conditions of state health department compliance orders that were issued for more than 100 sewer spills by Colorado Springs dating back to 1998. There are other conditions specific to Fountain Creek, which is central to SDS even though the 14-mile route of the pipeline goes to the west of Interstate 25, from Pueblo Dam through Pueblo West and Walker ranches before entering El Paso County. The pipeline is a total 50 miles long, and the project includes a treatment plant and two reservoirs to the north on Fountain Creek. Colorado Springs would commit to sediment control on Clear Springs Ranch, located south of Fountain, and would include Pueblo County in its adaptive management plan for Fountain Creek, as outlined in the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement. Additional conditions would commit SDS funding for Corps recommendations to dredge in Pueblo to maintain the effectiveness of flood control levees. Colorado Springs would assure that peak flows and volume during flooding would not increase from current levels, primarily through its stormwater enterprise, according to the recommendations…

The recommendations would put constraints on SDS as well. Any increase in water moving through the pipeline beyond the 78 million gallons per day for Colorado Springs, Security and Fountain and 18 million gallons per day with Pueblo West would trigger a permit review. Any water sold or leased must stay within Arkansas River basin. If any other areas of El Paso County contract for water, they must comply with a list of Fountain Creek protections…

Elsewhere, in addition to insisting on compliance with the flow management program on the Arkansas River through Pueblo, the recommendations ask for new agreements between Colorado Springs and the Pueblo Board of Water Works. One pact would create a pool of water in Lake Pueblo to supplement low flows – those below 50 cubic feet per second – in the river. The current agreement simply restricts exchanges when flows drop below 100 cfs and allows for voluntary releases for such things as kayak events in the Downtown Whitewater Park. Security and Pueblo West would be required to sign on to the flow management program, which already includes Colorado Springs and Fountain.

In a separate pact, Colorado Springs Utilities would also be required to execute a sharing agreement for the North Outlet Works. The county also would require a separate review of the North Outlet Works by the Reclamation in order to assure dam safety…

There are also provisions dealing with Lake Pueblo. One is a lake level management program suggested by Ray Petros, a Pueblo County water lawyer, in January. The details of the program are intentionally vague, since Colorado Springs and its SDS partners do not have control of the total volume in Lake Pueblo…

The recommended conditions also would include Pueblo County as a partner in any future discussions about the enlargement of Lake Pueblo. The recommendations would provide three years for Colorado Springs to begin construction, subject to obtaining the necessary state and federal permits.

Here’s a look at the prospect of guaranteed flows in the Arkansas River through Pueblo if an agreement is struck between Colorado Springs Utilities and the Pueblo Board of Water Works as part of the proposed Southern Delivery System, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The agreement is one of two the Pueblo water board and Colorado Springs are looking at as part of Pueblo County mitigation for the Southern Delivery System. The other would clarify which outlets at Pueblo Dam could be used to supply water. Both agreements will be considered Tuesday by the water board at its monthly meeting…

The new flow program would go beyond the provisions of the plan set up under the 2004 intergovernmental agreement between the city of Pueblo, the Pueblo water board and Colorado Springs by creating a pool of water at Lake Pueblo to release into the Arkansas River during extreme low flows, said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo water board. “The Legacy Program has given us more flexibility,” Hamel explained, referring to an effort to improve fish habitat and recreation on the Arkansas River that began in the 1990s. “The fresh water released from the pool will help keep the oxygen levels up for fish.” The 2004 IGA, also joined by Fountain, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Aurora, prevents exchanges during times when the flow of the Arkansas River drops below 100 cubic feet per second. That agreement would remain in place if Pueblo County commissioners and Colorado Springs agree on mitigation for SDS proposed this week by county staff…

The county also would require Security, Pueblo West and any future users of SDS to join the flow program as well, if staff recommendations are accepted. The new program would kick in at flows that are dangerously low for fish, under 50 cfs. Flows approach those levels at times during winter months when there is little water in the river and most of that is being stored under the winter water program. It happened in 2005, and in 2007 was averted by an emergency lease of water from Pueblo by the Division of Wildlife. There is nothing in the 2004 IGA that requires any release of water to make up the deficiency Under the new agreement, Pueblo and Colorado Springs each would store 1,500 acre-feet to hold available for release. The 3,000 acre-foot pool would be enough to provide additional flows of 50 cfs to the river for about one month. However, the full amount would probably not be needed on 30 consecutive days, according to historical records. As under the existing flow program, there would be exceptions for dry years. Under the new agreement, Pueblo would not have to store water if it did not have sufficient water for its annual program of leasing raw water to other users in the Arkansas Valley. Colorado Springs would not be required to provide water to the new pool if its storage supplies were below 70 percent or if river flows were projected to be below average by May 1 federal forecasts…

The second agreement would protect Pueblo’s use of the Joint Use Manifold below Pueblo Dam on the south side of the Arkansas River and proposes sharing the North Outlet Works, which would be constructed on the river outlet on the north side of the dam, Colorado Springs has proposed for SDS. It also would restrict SDS deliveries through the Joint Use Manifold if Pueblo were unable to receive gravity-fed flows at the Whitlock Treatment Plant. Pueblo, the Fountain Valley Authority and Pueblo West all use the south manifold now, but there is excess capacity. In the future, however, Pueblo and the Arkansas Valley Conduit would use that capacity. The agreement sets out ways Colorado Springs and Pueblo could share both the existing manifold and the North Outlet Works, perhaps with an interconnecting pipeline. Pueblo could share in some of the costs if it chose to connect with the north side works.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Leave a Reply