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.

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