Southern Delivery System: Project costs now stand at $2.3 billion

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Financing for the first phase of the Southern Delivery System will push costs for Colorado Springs to $2.3 billion, a financial analysis of the project reveals. The cost includes inflation over the next six years and financing for bonds, according to a memo to Colorado Springs City Council released this week…

The first phase of the project includes the North Outlet Works at Pueblo Dam, a 66-inch diameter pipeline 50 miles north, a treatment plant and additional water delivery lines in Colorado Springs. The total cost of that portion of the project is $880 million, of which Colorado Springs Utilities would pay $838 million. Its partners, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West also are paying into the project. Pueblo West is paying about $1 million to tap into the line from the North Outlet Works. Of the $880 million, $761 million is going for design and construction of SDS, while the remaining $119 million is accounted for by land, permitting and mitigation. Colorado Springs has budgeted an additional $10 million for the North Outlet Works, $22 million for land acquisition for the Upper Williams Creek Reservoir and $56 million for Pueblo County 1041 permit mitigation to cover changes in the project during the last two years.

Meanwhile State Representative Sal Pace is pushing on the project permitting agencies to reopen the applications in light of Colorado Springs’ voters dismantling of Colorado Springs stormwater enterprise fund. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, last month asked three federal agencies to perform a supplemental evaluation of SDS because of the demise of Colorado Springs’ stormwater enterprise last year. The enterprise would have generated $17 million per year over the 40-year life of the project to deal with a $300 million backlog of stormwater projects, planning and new problems. Only a portion of the most critical projects were completed, Pace said.

The study that you have requested at this late stage will undoubtedly reach the same conclusions that have already been reached by the numerous permitting entities and will only serve to delay a project that is critically important to the communities of Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West,” Bruce McCormick, chief of water services, replied in a letter this week…

Without written commitments to control stormwater, there would be no leverage to insist on the action when SDS is built, Pace implied. “History proves that without available stormwater funding, Colorado Springs, on its own, will not tax itself or fund stormwater projects to protect downstream landowners and communities on Fountain Creek,” Pace wrote. “Instead, Colorado Springs will effectively levy a tax on downstream residents in Pueblo County without their vote, and it will rely upon federal subsidies to undo the damage.”

McCormick responded that the controls are in place through Bureau of Reclamation and Pueblo County processes that have led to measures designed to improve Fountain Creek. Among those efforts are:

* Drainage control policies are still being studied by Colorado Springs and could be implemented regionally to contain flows throughout the watershed.

* Drainage basin studies already conducted by Colorado Springs have led to $20 million in projects that primarily benefit those downstream on Fountain Creek. Other identified projects would have more specific benefits within Colorado Springs.

* The new Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District will receive a $50 million payment when SDS is completed, in addition to other projects Colorado Springs has agreed to complete.

Colorado Springs also plans to charge new development with the costs of managing stormwater flows so they do not increase the intensity of floods…

McCormick said the adaptive management plan, which Reclamation included as a way to manage stormwater flows in its evaluation of SDS, is sufficient to deal with the impacts directly associated with the project. “It is our firm belief and commitment that the measures put in place through the 1041 permit and (Reclamation’s) record of decision, as well as the numerous other agency permits and approvals, will adequately address the impacts of the SDS,” McCormick said. “We are doing our part to address regional water quality and quantity issues.”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Colorado State University Pueblo’s Children’s Water Festival recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

More than 1,800 fourth-graders from Pueblo City Schools and District 70 attended the annual event, enjoying a sunny day interrupted by showers — not from the sky, but from firehoses or irrigation siphons or fountains or . . .

Just about everywhere.

“I think water is awesome. Water is in everything,” said Sam Moore, a Goodnight Elementary student who studied for a week and a half to play Water Wizards.

More education coverage here.

Castle Rock voluntary water conservation rebates

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Click here for the lowdown on the rebates from the Douglas County News Press.

More conservation coverage here.

Parker Water and Sanitation District board election recap

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From the Parker Chronicle (Ashley Dieterle):

Two positions are now filled on the Parker Water and Sanitation District board of directors after an all mail-in ballot election. Current board president Mary Spencer earned the most votes, with a total of 1,327 followed by candidate Darcy Beard earning 1,166 votes. Both women earned four-year terms.

More Parker coverage here and here.

Natural Resources Conservation Service’s May 1 Colorado Basin Outlook Report

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The May 1 basin outlook report is hot off the presses. Click here to download the report.

Here’s a preview:

Nowhere else in the state have the effects of the cool spring temperatures and winter storms of this past April impacted the snow totals as much as they have in the South Platte River Basin. Two snowpack peaks have occurred so far this winter, one in the first full week in April and the second higher one at the beginning of May. The second peak brought the snowpack to 87 percent of the average maximum snowpack, up from 82 percent during the first peak. Although the total snowpack did not reach average conditions, the delayed melt will help runoff timing seem more in line with average snowmelt runoff.

Snowpack news: Gunnison Basin snowpack — 80%

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From the Montrose Daily Press (Kati O’Hare):

The Gunnison River Basin encompasses water from Monarch Pass west to the Utah border and Grand Mesa south to Mount Wilson. As of Tuesday, precipitation is at 97 percent of average with snowpack at 78 percent of average. “Because of the way the snow tracks have been running, it’s been dumping mostly in the southern mountains,” said Bob Hurford, Water Division 4 engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources. Southern areas of the basin are doing well, such as Lake City, which is at more than 100 percent of average total precipitation. But eastern areas, such as McClure Pass, are at about 90 percent.

From The Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson):

“For the most part, any gains we saw during the last week of April were far surpassed by the melt we saw earlier in the month,” [Allen Green, state conservationist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service] said in a press release. The statewide snowpack fell to the lowest level of the season on May 1, at only 78 percent of average.

For most of the state, however, reservoir storage remains in good condition, with nearly average to above-average storage volumes reported in most of the major river basins. The South Platte was at 105 percent of average and 4 percent above last year. The strong reservoir storage readings are attributed to average to above-average runoff levels in spring 2008 and 2009, Green said. The additional storage should help alleviate some late-summer shortages from this year’s below-average snowpack.

Across northern Colorado, where the winter’s lowest snowpack readings have been common, snowpack declines were minimal in April. The lone exception was the North Platte basin, where an increase in April was recorded and which is at its highest percentage of the year, at 84 percent of average. Those basins showing the greatest declines were the Gunnison, Arkansas, Rio Grande and the combined San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel basins. Above-average levels were measured in the Gunnison, Colorado, South Platte, Yampa, White and North Platte basins. Statewide, precipitation levels in April were 117 percent of average. It was the first month of above-average precipitation since December.