Southern Delivery System: Colorado Water Quality Control Commission affirms the state Water Quality Control Division’s decision for 401 certification for the project

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The certification is needed before work on SDS may begin…

At a hearing in December, lawyers for the coalition and Thiebaut argued that numeric standards are needed to determine how SDS will affect levels of contaminants such as selenium and E. coli in Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River.

Colorado Springs and state lawyers argued for an adaptive management plan, which was described in the Bureau of Reclamation’s Environmental Impact Statement for SDS, that would provide flexibility in dealing with future problems…

Colorado Springs lawyers also defended the city’s 2009 decision to eliminate a stormwater enterprise that figured heavily into protection of Fountain Creek, assuring the state that other provisions were in place to control stormwater.

“It’s pretty clear to me that the division and the commission have bent over backward to accommodate Colorado Springs and its SDS partners,” said Ross Vincent of the local Sierra Club, a member of the coalition. “Without seeing the written decision, it’s inconceivable to me that the commission can justify supporting the division’s decision.” Vincent pointed to a budget briefing by the division last month, which acknowledged that the division does not have adequate funding to perform all of the duties required by the Legislature. The Dec. 22 memo claims the division would need more than 30 additional employees to keep up with the current workload of permits and inspections. The adaptive management plan relies on Colorado Springs to monitor itself, in much the same way that other compromises have been negotiated, Vincent said…

[Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut] said he will wait until a written decision is issued before deciding how to proceed. “Our office is disappointed with the decision and direction of the Water Quality Control Commission. We will assess our legal options after receiving the written decision,” Thiebaut said. “The Bureau of Reclamation’s study showed that the SDS project will further degrade water quality in Pueblo County. Yet again, Colorado Springs will benefit from the project and Pueblo will be harmed,” he said. Thiebaut also questioned the state’s ability to enforce water quality laws. “I am concerned that the Water Quality Control Division does not utilize adequate information when making their decisions, and they fail to effectively respond to the current and future challenges of protecting and restoring the integrity of Colorado’s water bodies, including our Fountain Creek and Arkansas River,” Thiebaut said.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

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