Southern Delivery System: Pueblo West hopes to come to consensus with partners

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Despite filing a lawsuit over being required to join the Pueblo flow program if the city connects to the proposed Southern Delivery System Pueblo West officials have hope that they can reach an accord with their partners in the pipeline. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“In terms of the specific point of your letter referencing the Wild Horse Creek Pump Back as a solution, we believe it could be a productive discussion topic at the proposed meeting,” Pueblo West Utilities Director Steve Harrison wrote in the letter. Harrison said there had been difficulty in arranging a meeting because of the schedules of attorneys on both sides, but said a meeting date should be available in the near future. Colorado Springs Utilities Chief of Water Services Bruce McCormick wrote a letter to Harrison on June 19 asserting that as project manager under the 2007 agreement among SDS partners – Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West – it had authority to negotiate all permits related to the project.

Pueblo West disagrees on the issue of the Pueblo flow management program for the Arkansas River, claiming it never agreed to take part in it and that the program would cost it more than 500 acre-feet per year when its water rights are fully developed. Pueblo West has sued Pueblo County over the condition that it participate in the flow program and filed a letter with the Army Corps of Engineers seeking to block a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit for SDS until the matter is resolved. McCormick said the Pueblo West actions “create a distinct problem.”

Pueblo West says its actions are justified because its partners in SDS failed to intervene on its behalf. “Pueblo West’s letter to the Corps of Engineers was not a violation of our contract with Colorado Springs Utilities,” Harrison wrote. “Our lawsuit against Pueblo County is consistent not only with the substance of Pueblo West’s contract with CSU, but is also consistent with the statements made by CSU representatives to the Pueblo County commissioners at their March 18 hearing, statements which clearly abrogated any role of CSU as project manager in regard to condition 9 (the Pueblo flow management program).”

Colorado Springs offered to support Pueblo West’s proposal to pump sewered return flows which are now flowing down Wild Horse Creek into a gulch behind the Pueblo West golf course that empties into Pueblo Reservoir. McCormick reserved the right to comment on water quality issues that are of concern to communities that draw water directly from Lake Pueblo, and to intervene on Pueblo West’s behalf to help settle issues of concern to the Pueblo Board of Water Works. The pumpback plan would reduce the amount of water Pueblo West would lose in exchanges whether or not it participates in the flow management program. If it participates in the program, set up under 2004 intergovernmental agreements, losses would be 180 acre-feet annually Ñ about 20 times greater than it would lose under current decreed conditions.

Ray Petros, Pueblo County’s water counsel, pointed out the study Pueblo West is using to determines its losses does not take into account flows that can be recaptured downstream in the recovery of yield program. It also assumes Pueblo West will fully develop 8,400 acre-feet from water rights it now owns, he said. Pueblo West asserts it is not obligated to participate in the flow management program because the vast majority of its water is imported into the basin, so it would never have reached the river anyway…

Pueblo West agreed to invest $1 million in SDS, which would give it the capacity to add 18 million gallons per day to its current maximum pumping rate of 12 million gallons per day. If Pueblo West were not a part of SDS, the metro district already has a permit for a river intake that would cost $4 million-$6 million, Harrison said. Harrison said Pueblo West might have to spend $15 million to replace the 500 acre-feet it could lose from the flow program, using Twin Lakes share prices and taking legal expenses into account.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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