Southern Delivery System: Pueblo West seeks exemption from Pueblo flow program

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Pueblo West was hoping to get an exemption from the Pueblo flow program (which they declined to participate in earlier in the program’s history) in conjunction with Colorado Springs’ proposed Southern Delivery System. An exemption is not in the cards according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

On the one hand, [Pueblo West] the community of about 30,000 would bear the brunt of visible impacts from the pipeline through Pueblo County, with disruption of roads, property and schedules looming during the construction phase. The benefit is that Pueblo West would save millions of dollars in meeting its future needs by hooking into the proposed pipeline as it leaves Pueblo Dam. By hooking into the SDS pipeline to deliver up to 18 million gallons per day, it will pay $1 million, compared with up to $8 million if it built its own river intake below Pueblo Dam. So, officials reasoned, it ought to be easy to catch a break on a provision of terms and conditions that requires participants to abide by the rules of the Pueblo flow program, which limits exchanges during certain times in order to meet minimum flow targets for the Arkansas River to meet the needs of fish and kayakers. Not so, Pueblo West learned this week. Pueblo County commissioners were unwilling to budge on a request to exempt Pueblo West from the flow program at a hearing Wednesday…

Two of the partners, Colorado Springs and Fountain, are already signed on with the flow program, and it won’t have any significant impact on the remaining partner, Security. There is no sympathy among the group toward the pleadings made by Pueblo West at the hearing. “We can’t be sponsors of an exception to a program we are complying with,” said Colorado Springs attorney David Robbins. “We are under an obligation to comply with the flow program.”

Pueblo West declined to participate in the flow maintenance program set up under a six-party intergovernmental agreement that includes Pueblo, the Pueblo Board of Water Works, Colorado Springs, Fountain, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Aurora, Robbins said. On the other hand, Pueblo West signed an agreement to support all permit activities, under the lead of Colorado Springs, under a 2007 IGA. The 1041 land-use application to Pueblo County is one of those permits. And, as approved by commissioners, it says Pueblo West must commit to the flow program.

“We were never part of the flow management program because it was generally accepted that we never had an effect on the river,” said Steve Harrison, Pueblo West Metro District utilities director. Harrison, supported by attorneys for the metro district, told the commissioners that Lake Pueblo is the terminal storage for Pueblo West’s water supply. The water comes mainly from Twin Lakes, so it was never part of the flow to the Arkansas River. Twin Lakes brings water into the Arkansas River basin from the Colorado River basin. Pueblo West releases water down Wild Horse Dry Creek, which enters the Arkansas River about 5 miles east of the Pueblo Dam. Pueblo West can exchange those flows, which are reusable under state water law, by storing water out of priority in its Lake Pueblo account.

The members of the flow management program say that while Pueblo West is entitled to reuse its transmountain flows, it needs native water to complete the exchange. “We disagree that the exchange doesn’t deplete the river,” said Alan Ward, water resources administrator for the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “The flow management partners all lose water.”

As of last year, the partners in the program let about 30,000 acre-feet of water — a little more than a year’s supply for Pueblo’s potable water system — flow downriver, either through curtailing exchanges or releasing water for special events at Pueblo Whitewater Park. Through a recovery of yield program, about 71 percent has been recovered. The water is captured at Holbrook Reservoir, under a contract, and used for later exchanges. If Pueblo West were participating in the program now, it would lose only about 92 acre-feet per year, Ward estimated, based on information provided by Pueblo West.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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