Southern Delivery System: Pueblo County permit requirements meet with little consternation from Springs’ city council

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Reflecting the fact that Pueblo County and Colorado Springs Utilities’ planners had been meeting for months to work out and understand concerns over the proposed Southern Delivery System, there was little opposition to the additional $125 million added to the project by Pueblo County. Here’s a report from R. Scott Rappold writing for the Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

About 90 people showed up. Of 11 who spoke, all but three praised the conditions, and several touted the pipeline as an economic – and even recreational – benefit for the reservoir on Upper Williams Creek…

“We believe they are reasonable and they are appropriate,” said Utilities CEO Jerry Forte. “We believe these conditions give us an opportunity to be responsible to our customers, our environment and our neighbors.”[…]

The City Council will vote on the conditions Tuesday. The Pueblo County commissioners will then vote to issue a permit. Under the conditions, Utilities officials would have to begin construction within three years.

More coverage from the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The permit would be a “green light” to build a pipeline from Pueblo Dam to meet needs up north, Colorado Springs Utilities Chief Executive Officer Jerry Forte told Council. “Your approval would be a green light to come from Pueblo Dam. . . . Coming from the reservoir is like having a giant bucket of water,” Forte said. “It’s the least expensive place for us to build, operate and maintain the pipeline.” Forte asked council to approve the conditions, which he said are acceptable to Utilities…

Pueblo County’s conditions include $75 million for ongoing sewage system upgrades and $50 million for Fountain Creek improvements. They also include agreements that protect flows in the Arkansas River below Pueblo, an agreement with the Pueblo Board of Water Works on a new North Outlet Works at Pueblo Dam and a program to maintain levels at Lake Pueblo. Colorado Springs also has committed to creating new wetlands and erosion control at Clear Springs Ranch, property it owns south of Fountain. The conditions allow future partners to be added to SDS, as long as water is not taken out of the Arkansas River basin. There are also conditions that regulate construction activities, provide for repair of roads damaged during construction and for revegetation of land. Colorado Springs has also committed to using eminent domain only as a last resort to acquire property and easements for the project…

Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works, asked Council to approve Pueblo County conditions and build the pipeline through Pueblo, rather than Fremont County, because of the superiority of a connection to the dam. Hamel also spoke in favor of the river flow and outlet agreements…

Don Schley, a Colorado Springs development consultant, said the cost of SDS has not been fully revealed. He said the city has spent money on parts of the project that were later changed and criticized how the city has handle its water rights portfolio. “The need alone to pump water uphill 1,700 feet is an unbearable cost for ratepayers,” Schley said. “The community cannot bear this cost when there are other alternatives that are more feasible.”

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Dave Miller, of Palmer Lake, told council it should consider his Central Colorado Project, a plan to build a reservoir at Union Park in Gunnison County, and called SDS an “interim project” until his project could be built. Miller has promoted other versions of the project without success for more than 20 years.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here, here and here.

Celebrating wilderness status for Rocky Mountain National Park

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It’s been a long time coming — basically since Richard Nixon prowled the Oval Office — but many of Colorado’s current congressional delegation, Wayne Allard and Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar were howling with the park staff yesterday to celebrate the inclusion of wilderness status yesterday, according to a report from Douglas Crowl writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan: Loveland Connection. From the article:

Federal laws mandated staff to manage the park as a wilderness area since it was first proposed in 1974. The wilderness designation for the park, which sees 3 million visitors each year, adds one final layer of land protection ensuring that no legislative action can reverse management of the area. Motorized equipment, logging, mining, development and other activities are indefinitely outlawed in wilderness areas. “It’s been a 35-year journey to get that,” RMNP Superintendent Vaughn Baker said before the ceremony. “We see it as a completion of that journey and now it clearly states that that’s how the backcountry should be managed.”

The journey to this point wasn’t smooth, as several legislators throughout the years tried to push bills through the U.S. Congress to no avail. The latest effort came when Salazar and Udall, both Democrats, sponsored a bill beginning in 2006 to enact the wilderness nomination for the park. That legislation hit a road block when Allard and former Rep. Marilyn Musgrave introduced competing legislation.

A split among the lawmakers centered on the liability of the Water Supply and Storage Company, which owns the Grand River Ditch running through park. The ditch breached in 2003 and resulted in a $9 million settlement last year from the company to pay the park for resource damages. The politicians worked out their differences and met publicly in the park in May 2007 to agree on new legislation, the basis of which ended up in the bill Obama signed last month, Baker said.

More coverage from the Greeley Tribune (Rebecca Boyle):

The designation means nearly 250,000 acres within the park will be permanently protected from human impacts. President Richard Nixon first suggested doing it in 1974. The bill also protects the Grand Ditch, which irrigates thousands of acres of farmland in eastern Colorado. Disagreements over that delivery system almost ditched the bill earlier this year, however, while threatening a two-year-old bipartisan hug-fest that was itself the result of months of wrangling. Two versions of a Rocky wilderness bill were introduced in January; after a series of maneuvers, the bill that emerged satisfied water users and conservationists alike.

Udall, an accomplished mountaineer, recalled hiking along the Continental Divide some time ago and stopping to look east, then turning to look west. He wasn’t thinking about Western Slope interests versus Front Range interests; he wasn’t even thinking about Colorado interests versus national interests, he said. That wasn’t what he saw. “I just saw this great country we call the United States of America,” he said. “This park, I think, helps us in this process to understand how we breach the divide, when we remind ourselves that we all have a common interest and a common spirit.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.