Southern Delivery System: Negotiations between Colorado Springs Utilities and Reclamation hit cost snag

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“The proposal you provided to us is unacceptable. It sounds arbitrary and capricious,” John Fredell, SDS project director, told Reclamation’s negotiating team. “Clearly you did not recognize that as in-basin users, we want to be treated fairly.”[…]

One of those [Colorado Springs Utilities] ratepayers, Walter Lawson, chided Reclamation for not revealing the whole cost to Colorado Springs, and said Reclamation is trying to “extort” money from Colorado Springs…

The morning session of negotiations centered on contract terms, as Reclamation rejected about 25 proposed changes. Most of those centered on Colorado Springs’ intention to wheel water through SDS to other El Paso County communities and to sell excess capacity in the oversized pipeline at the base of Pueblo Dam. The two sides staged frequent caucuses to discuss the finer points of the contract, but made little progress.

Late in the day, Reclamation Area Manager Michael Collins presented a proposal that would have allowed SDS participants to build an oversized pipeline from a new North Outlet Works to the point where Pueblo West would tap into it. The capacity of the line needed by SDS, 96 million gallons per day, would be retained by participants, while Reclamation would discount its rate for combined storage and conveyance by the amount of excess capacity it could sell in the North Outlet Works. Reclamation proposed a $75 per acre-foot fee for storage and conveyance — $25 less than the previous combined offer — plus the unspecified discount. It also stuck with its offer of $50 per acre-foot for exchange. The rates would increase by 3.08 percent annually…

At a May negotiating session, Colorado Springs proposed to sell the excess capacity in the line to future users as a way to pay for it. Colorado Springs also wants to pay just $17.35 per acre-foot, the same rate as the Pueblo Board of Water Works pays under a 25-year contract signed in 2000, with an annual increase of 1.79 percent. “At the next meeting, we’d like to hear why our proposal is unreasonable,” Fredell said.

Colorado Springs hired Joe Hall, a former Bureau of Reclamation area manager, to analyze some documents which Reclamation provided to justify its $50 per acre-foot rates. Hall said the basis for the rates is “confusing and inconsistent,” since it deals with some policies that are almost 30 years old and which apply to sales of former agricultural water to cities, rather than use of in-basin water rights. “I’m not saying your studies and analyses are bunk,” Hall said. “They are just not appropriate to what we’re trying to do here.”

Collins explained that federal laws give Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar broad concessions to set rates, and did not attempt to argue the basis with the Colorado Springs team. “We have some concerns about what’s been said,” he said. Reclamation will continue to control the excess capacity of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, Collins added.

The next session was set for July 15-16 in Fountain.

More SDS coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Reclamation area Manager Micheal Collins made it clear at the beginning of Tuesday’s negotiating session that the record of decision, along with the EIS, would not be reopened. “We will not explore the record of decision conditions or the commitments that are tied to SDS,” Collins said in his opening remarks…

“Our belief is that there are important effects of the SDS project that have not been adequately addressed in the EIS or various other permits,” Jane Rawlings, assistant publisher of The Chieftain, told Reclamation during SDS contract negotiations on Tuesday. “These include water quantity, flooding, sedimentation issues and water quality issues including biological and mineral levels.”[…]

Rawlings said some of the impacts which have not been measured include lower levels at Lake Pueblo because of heightened use of SDS, the removal of the stormwater enterprise by the Colorado Springs City Council and the concept of selling excess capacity in the SDS pipeline. “Today, I challenge you, the Bureau of Reclamation, to use this negotiation process to think outside the box and consider the citizens — the people — who pay your salaries in Southeastern Colorado,” Rawlings said. “We believe you need a supplemental EIS to adequately address these vitally important issues.”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

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