Southern Delivery System update: Past and present Colorado Springs officials show up for ‘construction celebration’ Friday

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The event, called a construction celebration, was staged on the south side of the plunge pool just below the dam. Water gushed from the dam through the gates on the dam. On the far side, a crane, trucks and buildings at the future North Outlet Works provided a backdrop for a series of brief speeches before 150 people in attendance. Council and board members from all four SDS member communities — Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West — attended. Commissioners from both counties were on hand. And some current and former members of the Pueblo City Council showed up, as well.

Schoolchildren from all four communities filled a time capsule that will be buried at the new water treatment plant in El Paso County. Guests signed a ceremonial section of 5 1/2-foot diameter pipe similar to that which will be buried along the 50-mile route of the pipeline to El Paso County…

Work actually began three months ago. More than 1,500 cubic yards of concrete have been poured to form the base of the North Outlet Works so far, Fredell said. The entire assembly, which will take water through the dam for river flows and to serve the SDS pipeline, should be completed in late 2012.

More coverage from Daniel Chacón writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

The city-owned utility celebrated another historic milestone Friday: the start of major construction on SDS. The backdrop of the ceremony was the massive concrete wall of Pueblo Reservoir, where the 62-mile, $2.3 billion water pipeline starts. “We can actually see a crane over there putting in concrete right now,” Utilities CEO Jerry Forte told dozens of dignitaries and guests, including Springs Mayor Steve Bach…

Utilities still must acquire about 120 properties where the pipeline will go. The project also lacks a “financing mechanism” similar to the now-defunct Stormwater Enterprise to maintain storm water and retention facilities as required under a crucial SDS land-use permit from Pueblo County. John Cordova, chairman of the Pueblo County Board of Commissioners, which issued the so-called 1041 permit, said he remembers when the Colorado Springs City Council disbanded the Stormwater Enterprise following the passage of ballot Issue 300 in November 2009. “We were shocked,” said Cordova, who attended Friday’s ceremony. “We had never — and that must’ve been our fault — we hadn’t considered that the citizens of Colorado Springs would vote that enterprise out of existence,” he said…

The enterprise, which levied fees on property owners, was created without voter approval, generating anger among some residents. Opponents dubbed the storm water fee a “rain tax,” and some people refused — and continue to refuse — to pay their past-due fees.

More coverage from Catharine Tsai writing for the Associated Press (via Business Week). From the article:

Colorado Springs is already served by three water pipelines, but two are more than 40 years old. Plans to expand other parts of its water system, which relies heavily on the Colorado, Arkansas and Fryingpan rivers, ran into opposition from environmentalists, the recreation industry and homeowners. Water planners see the Southern Delivery System as a needed backup amid forecasts of population growth in the region and the potential for drought. For Fountain, which gets some water from wells, the project strengthens diversity in its water portfolio.

[Southern Delivery System program director John Fredell of Colorado Springs Utilities] said the downturn in the economy is helping contain costs. Bids to date have come in under budget by about 20 percent, he said.

Building the Southern Delivery System is projected to create an annual average of 786 regional jobs, according to Colorado Springs Utilities.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Ben Noreen):

Whether you are an SDS supporter or critic, it’s undeniable the project has survived unlike many others, overcoming political and bureaucratic hurdles.

Most of the big water projects proposed during the last 30 years in Colorado have one thing in common — they never got built. This one has a long way to go, and there are sure to be a few bumps in the road, which happens with big construction projects.

But construction has officially begun. That cannot be said of Denver’s ill-fated Two Forks Dam, or of Homestake II, the project once planned by Colorado Springs and Aurora, or the Union Park project, which was to have diverted water from the Gunnison River Basin to the Denver area.

The era of big water projects ended when federal subsidies ended and when environmentalists began defeating projects that called for new dams. In the era that followed, intra-state political fights became the new obstacles for water projects to hurdle…

The feds aren’t paying for SDS. There’s no new dam, no endangered species issue. We’re not taking West Slope water. That’s the formula for success.

More coverage from Kendra Potter writing for KKTV.com. From the article:

With 62 miles of underground pipeline, water will be delivered from the Pueblo Reservoir to residents in four communities: Pueblo West, Colorado Springs, Security and Fountain. Officials from all four communities and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation commemorated the historic event with a special ceremony at the base of the Pueblo Dam Friday. “This project has been so carefully considered, so hard won, and so well worth it,” said Mayor of Fountain Jeri Howells.

Guests paid witness to the crews hard at work on the project at the Pueblo dam. Something Former Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera worked 8 years in office to see. “I just feel tremendous satisfaction and tremendous hope for the future of Colorado Springs and the entire region of Southern Colorado,” said Rivera.

More coverage from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

It will take generations to pay off the project through bonds, utility rate increases and higher fees that builders and developers have to pay for new water taps.

Colorado Springs Utilities is raising rates 12 percent per year through 2016, but it said only two-thirds of the increase is attributable to paying for the Southern Delivery System. The rest of the increase is being used to support work on the existing infrastructure.

Some work on the new infrastructure has already begun, but the celebration Friday formally marked the start of major building after roughly 20 years of planning, negotiations with regional partners and seeking various permits to start the work.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

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