Wiggins Town Council delays rate increase

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From The Fort Morgan Times (John Brennan):

The Wiggins Town Council decided at its meeting Wednesday to delay a planned rate increase from $36 a month to $56 a month per household…

Town Administrator Bill Rogers said the town could impose the first $20 of the increase as soon as construction begins, or delay any increase until the project is completed. Councilman Vince Longcor said he felt the town should wait to impose even a partial rate hike until the town starts work like digging trenches or laying pipe. “There’s a lot of work being done behind the scenes (on the water project), but for a lot of people seeing is believing,” Longcor said. Rogers said he expects to be able to start construction on the project as soon as the town receives a letter of authorization from USDA Rural Development, which is loaning money for the project. That letter should come shortly after the first of the year, Rogers said. The town also decided to finalize a contract with IFE, the engineering firm doing preliminary design work on the water project. Town attorney Melinda Culley told the council she understood that the design work had been approved, but no funding had been appropriated yet. She said state law requires that funding be approved before authorizing any work, so Culley recommended that the town either hold off on approving any design work, or only authorize work for which it had funding available. Rogers said the town had about $100,000 that it could dedicate for the design work, and the expense would be reimbursable through the USDA. A representative of IFE said the agreement to be approved Wednesday would allow the firm to do some initial geotechnical and surveying work, for which there is some urgency because the town can only bore under the Bijou ditch when it is not filled with water. Rogers said that leaves the town just a “very short window” in January or February to complete that work, or face delaying the project for an entire year.

The council unanimously approved the agreement with IFE and the appropriation of the $100,000, with the understanding that it would be reimbursed by USDA for whatever portion of that money is spent.

More Wiggins coverage here.

Log Lane utilities bills to rise $10 per month

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

The Log Lane Village Board of Trustees approved two ordinances Thursday night, one raising the basic cost for water by $5 and the other raising the basic cost for sewer services by $5. New town attorney Carl McGuire — who was sworn in that evening — said the rise in costs was necessary because the town needed larger reserves to ensure it could pay the loan it got for the recent overhaul of those utility systems. Log Lane took out a loan from the Colorado Drinking Water Revolving Fund through the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority for the work on the systems, he said. However, the authority is demanding that Log Lane have a certain level of reserves to make sure it can pay its loan, and the current reserves are not acceptable.

More Morgan County coverage here.

Morgan County Water Quality District board meeting recap

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From The Fort Morgan Times (John Brennan):

City Water Superintendent John Turner told the water board during its monthly meeting that an agreement with Quality Water could help the city in the event the supply of water from the city’s treatment plant west of town is somehow shut down. At least one connection already exists between the two water systems, Turner said, and an additional connection would be advisable. The city’s current emergency plan in the event of the loss of its water supply calls for the city to revert to the use of several wells that are still online in the city, Turner said. But the city stopped using those wells because of the high concentration of nitrates, uranium and other contaminants in the water, he noted…

Water board member Bill Baker raised the issue of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, which many Fort Morgan residents support through a mill levy tax. LSP officials made a presentation to the water board last spring, outlining all of the water measuring and data collection the group does, Baker recalled. But he said none of the things the LSP district does have anything to do with the city of Fort Morgan. “Northern (Colorado Water Conservancy District) is our water district as far as I’m concerned,” Baker said. “But I looked at (LSP’s) budget and most of their revenue is our money. I think we should look at withdrawing (from LSP).” Powers pointed out that while individual property owners in Fort Morgan are assessed the mill levy for the LSP water district, Fort Morgan as a city does not “belong” to the district and therefore cannot withdraw…A motion by water board member Jeff Canfield, to ask the council to instruct Wells to look into possible options for withdrawing from the LSP water district, was approved unanimously…

The water board also discussed proposed bylaws governing its structure and function. Although the board has essentially been operating without bylaws since its inception, Wells said the city council approved a resolution this year that all city boards and commissions must have formal bylaws. Some exceptions were made, including the city planning commission, which is governed by state law. One of the elements of the bylaws dictated by the council is term limits. But several members of the water board felt the complex nature of the water issues it deals with make the knowledge and experience of the board members more crucial than on some other city boards, and might qualify it for such an exception. Board member Jim Green said longevity and historical knowledge are especially important on the water board. “That perspective is invaluable,” Green said. “We’re looking at things, projects, plans 20 years from now, but a lot of that depends on things that happened 20, 30, 50 years ago.”

More Morgan County coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Fountain Creek improvements still on tap despite Colorado Springs’ stormwater enterprise fund uncertainty

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The stormwater enterprise, which is expected to be phased out over eight years after Colorado Springs voters passed Doug Bruce’s Issue 300 last week, was linked to the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement. “We need to read the language carefully,” Bruce McCormick, Colorado Springs water chief, said Friday. “While the enterprise is losing funding over time, SDS is still going to be funded according to the commitments in the EIS.” If necessary, Colorado Springs would pay for those commitments through the rate structure associated with building the $1 billion-plus SDS project, McCormick said. The EIS, released earlier this year by Reclamation, says Colorado Springs is responsible for improving storm drainage in the city as it grows, so that it will not exacerbate problems associated with runoff into Fountain Creek – erosion, sedimentation and pollution…

In replies to concerns about the future of the enterprise, Reclamation responded that the actions promised by Colorado Springs are independent of the enterprise. The EIS talks about the purposes for forming the enterprise in 2005. Colorado Springs sought to address a 20-year backlog of $300 million in stormwater improvements and strengthen planning with $17 million annually in new revenues. Some of those improvements were tied to correcting conditions that led, in part, to more than 100 sanitary sewer spills between 1998 and 2005, which were cited in a federal lawsuit by the Sierra Club. Colorado Springs has promised Pueblo County it would make $75 million in improvements to fortify its sanitary sewer system, pay $50 million to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District and make other improvements as a condition for a 1041 permit. “We plan to begin dredging in the channel through Pueblo and enhancing wetlands in 2010,” McCormick said. “Those actions have nothing to do with the stormwater enterprise. The commitments are a separate component.”

Meanwhile it looks like there will be a legal challenge to Douglas Bruces’s Issue 300, passed by Colorado Springs’ voters last week. 300 would phase out the city’s stormwater enterprise. Here’s a report from Daniel Chaćon writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

The confusing and ambiguous language of ballot issue 300 is subject to various legal interpretations, and unnamed citizens groups are already talking about challenging the legality of a major part of the initiative, outgoing Assistant City Manager Mike Anderson said Thursday. The ballot initiative, which voters approved last week, is apparently in conflict with the city charter, Anderson said during a candid and wide-ranging speech before the Colorado Springs Press Association…

Anderson said Issue 300 amended the city code, but not the city charter, and the city charter allows payments in lieu of taxes. The city charter, which is analogous to state or U.S. constitutions for the city, trumps the city code, which is comprised of enacted city ordinances, he said…

Anderson said the city at this point doesn’t plan to challenge the legality of Issue 300, and he wouldn’t identify the citizens groups considering the legal challenge. Anderson would only say that “there’s some talk out there.” But the city is just starting to “dig into the implications” of 300, he said.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Conduit: Kickoff celebration recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“This is our future,” Southeastern Colorado Conservancy District President Bill Long said Friday at a celebration marking the beginning of the conduit’s construction. “Sometimes I worry that we don’t think about the future the way they did in 1962 or 1942.”[…]

Members of Colorado’s congressional delegation evoked the words of President John F. Kennedy and the continued support of valley leaders such as Pueblo Chieftain Publisher Bob Rawlings, Long and others in moving the project toward reality. “I think Jack Kennedy would be enormously proud of the Southeastern district and Southern Colorado for hanging in there all these years,” Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said. “This is a touchstone for what we should be doing when our politics becomes crazier and crazier.” Bennet quoted Kennedy’s speech in Pueblo in 1962 that praised the public benefits of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project as he signed it into law. The conduit was a crucial part of that project, and would benefit those with the poorest quality drinking water, the Lower Arkansas Valley. It was ballyhooed as a primary benefit when golden frying pans were sold to raise money to support the project. Enthusiasm grew in the 1960s – Lamar joined the Southeastern district in 1968 to partake of the conduit – and continued well into the 1970s…

It wasn’t until this year, when a concept that would use excess-capacity revenues from the Fry-Ark Project to repay federal costs of the conduit and other unfunded portions of the project, that the project took off…

“You’ve seen what happens when water moves away from communities,” Rep. Salazar said. “What we are here today to assure is that every community in the Arkansas Valley gets good, clean drinking water.”[…]

Both Bennet and Salazar mentioned [Bob] Rawlings’ role in promoting the conduit for decades, but Rawlings went even further in history to praise the efforts of others in the history of the Fry-Ark Project. “I think this is a wonderful day,” The Chieftain publisher said. “It’s been a long time coming. The efforts of Frank Hoag, Damian Ducy, Charles Beise, Charles Boustead and many others are looking down on us and grateful that this finally is getting done.”

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

West slope to east slope water transfers, IBCC/roundtables and State Rep. Sal Pace’s proposed mitigation legislation debated

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We already have a bureaucratic effort to achieve the same goal,” said Harold Miskel, vice-president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “I worry about legislation like this, given the sensitivities between the Eastern and Western slopes, that it may exacerbate that other effort. It’s an additional lever and a threat.” Miskel was reacting to a proposal by state Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, which he said will encourage collaboration to mitigate the impact of moving water from rural areas to cities, when water is transferred between state water divisions.

Pace has been promoting a concept to allow conservancy districts to negotiate mitigation in lieu of stricter court provisions. Pace plans to pattern the new provisions after the 1937 Conservancy District Act, which allows judges to consider court mitigation. Miskel said the solution to project urban shortfalls of water supplies could involve more transfers of water from the Western Slope, an issue that is already being addressed by the Interbasin Compact Committee and the Colorado Water Conservation Board…

“The IBCC never was given statutory authority,” Pace said in response to Miskel’s comments. “There’s a need for state legislation that provides for voluntary agreement. . . . If we’re going to have third-party mitigation, wouldn’t you like to be at the table?” Pace added that at least one legislator, whom he did not name, is looking at a proposal to disband the IBCC…

“I would not contest that the IBCC moves at glacial speed,” Miskel said. “But this effort was to encourage the Arkansas basin and the South Platte basin to talk to the Western Slope.”

Pace said his proposal would not harm that effort. “What I envision this bill doing is to encourage collaboration, to encourage outside applicants to work with local districts,” Pace said. “I’m not trying to do an anti-metro bill. Pace has not drafted a bill yet, and instead has chosen to talk with water boards all over the state – he also traveled to Salida Thursday afternoon to talk with the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District – to gain input. A draft version of the bill will be distributed through Colorado Water Congress. The biggest problem Pace is facing is how to deal with leases, saying cities and water sellers could avoid the community impact question with long-term agreements rather than outright sales. “I do not want to discourage fallowing programs,” Pace said. Pace added his bill would not stop water transfers or spell out what types of mitigation could be negotiated. “Transfers are not shut down and water sales cannot be stopped by conservancy districts (under the concept), Pace said.

More transmountain/transbasin diversions coverage here.