Southern Delivery System: Pueblo County or Fremont County route?

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Colorado Springs Utilities is in the process of deciding the best route for their proposed Southern Delivery System. They have that luxury since both Pueblo County and Fremont County have approved permits for the project. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Gary Walker, whose ranch land north of Pueblo West would be crossed by 7 miles of pipeline if SDS goes through Pueblo County, said he is in limbo while Colorado Springs Utilities decides whether to build SDS through his land or further west in Fremont County. “I know no more today than I did after the first meeting I attended before Christmas,” Walker said. “There have been a lot of promises to mitigate, but nothing in writing.”[…]

His major concerns are with rare plant species, still being catalogued by the Nature Conservancy, and the possibility that a break of the proposed 5-foot wide water pipeline could wash out sensitive areas of the ranch. He also worries that the potential of SDS to draw down levels at Lake Pueblo could harm the county’s recreation economy. “Does anyone know where the check valves will be? They’re putting a 5-foot firehose through there that could wash out 20 feet of soil if it breaks,” Walker said. It’s hard for Walker to get information because Colorado Springs has not begun negotiations with him on acquiring an easement through the property…

SDS Project Director John Fredell said specific negotiations aren’t expected to begin until Colorado Springs determines the route. While the Fremont County option is more expensive to build and operate, the Pueblo County route came with more than $125 million in additional regulatory costs, mainly for mandatory sanitary sewer system upgrades and Fountain Creek projects. The county conditions are written to protect landowners who will be affected by the project, and Walker is the largest. Fredell said Colorado Springs has had some preliminary meetings with Walker and his lawyer, John Naylor, and said the city is prepared to address all of Walker’s concerns…

The Colorado Natural Heritage Project, an agency chosen by Walker, will assess the rare plants on the property, and revegetation plots to determine the best way to revegetate that will be set up, Fredell said. The city will also go over construction schedules and the timing of the work on the ranch to avoid the types of problems Walker has dealt with when the Fountain Valley Conduit was constructed under the supervision of the Bureau of Reclamation…

Walker said he is puzzled about why the commissioners did not demand that SDS take water from below the confluence at Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River. He said he believes the Fremont County option has always been a ruse to pressure Pueblo County into approving the Pueblo Dam option. Given Pueblo West concerns about the Pueblo flow program, which were first expressed at a March public hearing, he is not sure why commissioners proceeded immediately with conditions, rather than table them. “Why would Pueblo County want SDS at the dam, if not for the benefit to Pueblo West? I’ve wracked my brain over this, and it seems like Pueblo County threw Pueblo West under the bus,” Walker said…

For now, Walker can only stand on the sidelines and watch as Colorado Springs Utilities decides the fate of a project that will change the face of his 25,000-acre ranch for future growth, mainly in El Paso County. “What’s amazing to me is that Pueblo County signed off on its 1041 permit without knowing where SDS is going,” Walker said. “Everything that’s being done is profit-motivated, but there’s no incentive for us (Pueblo County) to do this, whether you agree or disagree with the growth.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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