Southern Delivery System: Build in Pueblo County or Fremont County?

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Colorado Springs Utilities has managed to get two permits for their proposed Southern Delivery System, one from Pueblo County, their preferred alternative and one from Fremont County, the backup in case the preferred alternative was denied or too expensive. Pueblo County tacked on $125 million in costs to the project through the county so now CSU is in the process of analyzing their options over which route to use. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“Right now, we’re beginning the business analysis that will give us the costs and information we need for timing of the project,” said Bruce McCormick, chief of water services…

But with an additional $125 million tacked on to the conditions, a slowdown in growth in the Colorado Springs service area and commitments whose costs have not been fully examined, there are tough decisions ahead, McCormick said…

The Fremont County route would be more expensive to build and operate, but comes with fewer strings attached up front. If Fremont County is chosen, the pipeline would still serve Colorado Springs, Security and Fountain, but Pueblo West would be left with a more expensive option, a river intake below Pueblo Dam, to obtain its future water. The Pueblo flow management program also is jeopardized if SDS goes through Fremont County. Colorado Springs is committed to maintaining flows and curtailing exchanges only if a Pueblo Dam option is chosen. Even so, a lawsuit by Pueblo West against Pueblo County has cast a new shadow over the flow program, although the partners in the 2004 agreement that created the program remain committed.

Beyond the two choices, there are other issues Colorado Springs must consider, McCormick said. “There are tremendous variables to consider in financing markets and rates, limits on permits, value engineering and other opportunities,” McCormick said. To date, Colorado Springs has invested more than $80 million in SDS, and it still has work to do before a shovel of dirt can be turned.

In the immediate future, perhaps during the two months when a route will be chosen, Colorado Springs will begin seeking permits in El Paso County for the project. El Paso County does not have 1041 regulations like Pueblo County, but the issues are equally complex. A treatment plant and two reservoirs will be built in El Paso County in addition to the bulk of the length of the pipeline – about 30 miles in addition to the roughly 20 miles in either Pueblo or Fremont counties. “We plan to initiate the El Paso County process in the next few weeks,” McCormick said.

In the meantime, Colorado Springs Utilities is still working on crucial permits with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Division of Wildlife.

Finally, contract negotiations with the Bureau of Reclamation won’t begin until a route is chosen. Contracts are needed for each of the partners to store water in Lake Pueblo, to build and use a new pipeline connection at the north outlet and to exchange water between the new pipeline and the existing Fountain Valley Conduit.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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