Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities pledges not to back down from stormwater commitments for Fountain Creek

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

McCormick said Colorado Springs’ commitments on stormwater do not depend on the enterprise. Those commitments are contained within both the conditions of Pueblo County’s 1041 permit and the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement. “We clearly have a stormwater commitment to SDS and we will maintain that,” McCormick said. “The EIS requires us to annually evaluate flows in Fountain Creek. If they exceed historic flows, we have to sit down with Reclamation to address that.” At the same time, there are other benefits to Fountain Creek f r o m SDS, he said. Those include $50 million that will be paid directly to the district after SDS is complete in 2016 and $75 million in continued improvements to the wastewater system, including stream crossing susceptible to flooding. McCormick said dredging the channel in Pueblo and wetlands enhancement projects are planned for 2010. “Fountain Creek is better off with SDS than without it,” McCormick said.

In other Fountain Creek news the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District has chosen an interim manager, according to Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Gary Barber, who worked on a grant to fund the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force and helped craft legislation to form a district, was chosen as interim director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

Meanwhile here’s a recap of a study of selenium in Fountain Creek by Colorado State University – Pueblo, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“Selenium is definitely in the water. It is definitely taken in by plants, and it increases as you go downstream,” said Del Nimmo, a biology research associate leading the study. “What was a surprise to us was the relationship between selenium and the hardness of water.”

Selenium, an element essential to life but toxic at elevated levels, is being evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA finding on selenium levels could lead to new state standards. While the standards could mean higher compliance levels for sewage discharge permits in the area, including Pueblo’s and all those along Fountain Creek, there could also be consequences to wildlife. Selenium was listed as a cause of wildlife death and deformity in the Kesterson Wildlife Refuge in the San Joaquin Valley in California, largely due to agricultural sources. Selenium in Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River have been identified in past studies by the U.S. Geological Survey and Colorado State University-Fort Collins.

The CSU-Pueblo study, however, is the first to establish a link between selenium and living organisms, in this case bryophytes, mossy plants that are exceptionally good at absorbing minerals from water. That’s important because the EPA criteria most likely will be based on levels in fish or bird tissues, rather than concentrations in the water…

The clearest trend was the accumulation of selenium in the water as it moves downstream. “While we cannot detect an impact on Fountain Creek, the Arkansas River flowing into John Martin Reservoir may cause loading systems to become toxic,” Nimmo said. “If the EPA criterion is based on tissue levels, we should have levels all along the river to John Martin.” John Martin Reservoir is home to two threatened and endangered bird species, the piping plover and least tern, said Scott Herrmann, a CSU-Pueblo biology professor.

Another part of the Fountain Creek study is looking at concentrations of selenium in fish tissue, but has not yet been completed, Herrmann said. “If we can find the money to do the (Arkansas River) bryophytes study, we can collect fish at the same time,” Herrmann said…

The Fountain Creek study is important for several reasons. It could serve in future state water quality ratings for stream segments in the watershed. That affects the discharge permits for water treatment plants. The study also could provide a baseline for monitoring the environmental impacts of the Southern Delivery System, which will provide more water to Colorado Springs, Fountain and Security, and increase discharges into Fountain Creek.

The life span of Colorado Springs’ stormwater enterprise is getting shorter. Here’s a report from Daniel Chaćon writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

A majority of the City Council now favors immediately eliminating the controversial city-owned agency that levies a fee to pay for drainage projects. City Councilman Bernie Herpin announced Monday he no longer supports a two-year phase-out, indicating there are now five votes on the nine-member panel to get rid of the enterprise at the end of this year.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here. More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

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