Drought/runoff/snowpack news: Statewide snowpack at 7% of average, South Platte = 8%


From the North Platte Bulletin:

Temperatures have been as much as 6-10 degrees hotter than normal fom more than a month in many places, particularly eastern Colorado, the manager of the Colorado Water Conservation Board Office of Water Conservation and Drought Planning said May 17. Snowpack is 7 percent of normal, which means low stream-flows. More than half the state has officially been proclaimed in drought, said a Denver CBS television station.

An estimated 4 million acres of trees have been killed by beetles, which many view as a natural cycle, but the deadwood creates highly flammable fuel for wildfires.

Click here to go to the Colorado Water Conservation Board website for the presentations from the May 22 Water Availability Task Force Meeting.

I live-tweeted the meeting using hash code #cwcbwatf.

From the Arvada Press (Sara Van Cleve):

The City of Arvada has enacted voluntary water restrictions this summer to help conserve the city’s supply. Jim Sullivan, director of utilities, said the city’s water supplies are in good condition, but residents should still conserve for future dry spells. “We’re in a dry period, but we planned for this kind of dry period,” Sullivan said. “The issue would be if it continues into future years.”[…]

The most effective way to save water is to reduce sprinkler use by following the city’s watering schedule and guidelines found at www.arvada.org/about-arvada/voluntary-summer-lawn-watering-guidelines.

San Luis Valley groundwater sub-district plan garners nearly a hundred pages of objections from surface water users


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

…opponents have said the plan fails to show the work leading to its conclusions.

The filings argue that it lacks data and used a faulty methodology in producing a groundwater pumping estimate of 308,000 acrefeet for the upcoming season. Nor does the plan detail recent adjustments to a state computer model designed to project groundwater use and depletions to surface water. Moreover, the objectors request an explanation of how the projected injury to surface water users was reduced from 5,016 acre-feet in a draft of the plan to 4,706 acre-feet in the final version.

Opponents of the subdistrict also argued in a Friday filing that the standard of review adopted by the court requires the implementation of the subdistrict’s plan be delayed until objections are resolved.

Also, without a plan in operation, the objectors argue that groundwater wells that injure the rights of senior surface users must be curtailed, a move that would break with nearly a century of unregulated groundwater use in the valley.

A status conference in the case has been set for Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here and here.

Peru Creek basin: Summer restoration work will include opening the Pennsylvania mine for a look-see


From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

One part of the planned work involves moving some of the waste rock from the mine away from running water, a technique that has proven successful in other remediation projects. A collaborative task force including local, state and federal stakeholders have been grappling with the pollution for years, as cost estimates for a cleanup have soared.

This summer, the various parties collaborating on the cleanup will also try to enter the old mine itself to try and figure how water moves through the shafts and tunnels. That may help the experts figure out if they can permanently block the water coming out of the mine with a bulkhead, according to Lane Wyatt, a water expert with the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. “That’s the big thing, is opening up the Penn Mine … that’s kind of exciting, going in see what’s going on in there. That might help us develop some remedial options based on more than just guessing,” Wyatt said.
Other potential remediation options include a water treatment facility, or perhaps even trying to block or divert water before it gets into the mine.

“The Forest Service has been involved in looking for ways to clean up the Penn Mine for many years. This is a great step forward,” said acting Dillon District Ranger Peech Keller.

More Snake River watershed coverage here and here.

Sand Creek: Benzene levels have stabilized but the long-term mitigation schedule is cloudy for Suncor groundwater plume


From The Denver Post (Karen E. Crummy):

Current data show that surface-water levels of benzene at the point where the creek meets the South Platte River are still much higher than standards for drinking water, but remain stable. And the source of the leak — a pipe within the refinery — is fixed. But one health department official says a “mass of contamination” continues to dissolve into the groundwater, and isolated pockets of pollution — much of it underground — are spread over large areas within the refinery and off-site, making it difficult to locate.

While the state health department has tapped various methods of remediation, officials say it will take another two months to determine their effectiveness. Walter Avramenko, head of the state’s Hazardous Waste Corrective Action Unit, said it took two decades to study and remedy historical contamination at the refinery, part of a 75-year-old industrial site, and come up with a long-term management plan. “It took only a short period of time to reverse all those gains, and we’re not planning to wait another 20 years to fix it. We’re pushing the refinery very hard,” Avramenko said. “This is a very difficult, complex hydrogeologic environment for which there are no easy solutions.”

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Colorado Water Trust: Riverbank event is June 5


From the Colorado Water Trust website:

Join us at the 4th Annual RiverBank Fundraiser for both live and silent auctions, appetizers, an open bar, good company, and the inaugural presentation of The David Getches Flowing Waters Award. Come celebrate our successes over the past year and help us raise funds for our future efforts. We hope to see you there!

More instream flow coverage here.

Next IBCC meeting May 31 in Breckenridge, next Flaming Gorge Task Force meeting May 30 in Silverthorne


From email from the IBCC:

Below are the links to the meeting notice and agenda for the May 31 IBCC meeting taking place in Breckenridge and the minutes from their February 29th meeting.

Meeting Notice


February Minutes

Here are the meeting minutes from the last meeting of the Flaming Gorge Task Force via email from Heather Bergman. One of the topics for discussion were water rights for the pipeline.

The Committee’s next meeting is in Siverthorne on May 30.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Glen Canyon Dam Long Term Experimental and Management Plan Environmental Impact Statement schedule released


From email from Reclamation/NPS:

The Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and the National Park Service have announced the current schedule for drafting the Glen Canyon Dam Long Term Experimental and Management Plan Environmental Impact Statement (LTEMP EIS). This schedule is intended to help interested parties plan for key involvement periods. The letter announcing the schedule is available in PDF format at the location below.


More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Castle Rock: Council releases 481 page analysis of long-term water supply proposals


From the Castle Rock News-Press (Rhonda Moore):

he 481-page summary was an indication of the job at hand for councilmembers tasked with one of the town’s most important financial decisions in years. “This is the first step in the process,” Town Manager Mark Stevens said. “This will involve multiple other meetings and opportunities for public input. This is a lot of information for everybody to start wrapping their arms around.”

The information included cost projections on full-scale, scaled-back and hybrid proposals from providers Renew Strategies, Stillwater Resources, United Water and the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency project. Town staff enlisted the help of a team of water attorneys and engineers to help analyze the proposals from the four providers to arrive at a comparative analysis, said Ron Redd, utilities director.

The goal to find a renewable source of water is part of the town’s effort to wean itself of its groundwater supply and become 75 percent reliant on renewable water at the town’s anticipated buildout, Redd said.

From email from United Water and Sanitation District (Robert Lembke):

Castle Rock recently released a 425-page “Legacy Water Projects” report comparing the renewable water systems of the four applicants chosen by the town to submit proposals in August 2011. The Town’s consultants identified United as the only water system that is technically and legally capable of providing the town with 6,000 acre-feet of renewable water in a manner that is economically reasonable for its residents.

The report further confirmed that, by the year 2019, the United system becomes less expensive than the South Metro/WISE/Denver/Aurora proposal. The United system remains less expensive than WISE thereafter in perpetuity.

Under the United proposal, Castle Rock will possess ownership rights to 6,000 acre-feet of renewable water and water infrastructure while the South Metro/WISE/Denver/Aurora proposal leases the town only 3500 acre-feet of renewable water and infrastructure. Castle Rock’s report highlighted that Denver and Aurora would likely maximize their water deliveries to the town in the first few years of each decade, leading to the possibility of “no deliveries for 24 consecutive months” or “no significant deliveries during 35 consecutive months.”

The consultants also concluded that Denver and Aurora’s water delivery schedule under the WISE proposal could require South Metro to obtain up to 73,000 acre feet of storage in Rueter-Hess Reservoir in order to provide reliable water supplies to its members. Although Castle Rock already owns 8,000 acre feet of storage in the reservoir, the town would need to purchase an extra 17,550 acre feet of storage to survive the Denver/Aurora non-delivery years at an estimated additional cost of $87,775,000 – $140,400,000.

Finally, Castle Rock’s water attorneys and engineering consultants expressed serious reservations about any purchase of water from either Renew Strategies, L.L.C. (Lost Creek Basin water) or Stillwater Resources, Inc. (Box Elder Basin) due to significant issues related to the long-term reliability of the systems, lack of existing infrastructure, and poor water quality.

Copies of the Town’s engineering and legal reports discussing these matters in greater detail can be found on the United website.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

South Platte River: Joe and Jeff Shoemaker share a long history of service to the river corridor


Click here to go to Westword’s terrific in-depth look at the history, present and future of the South Platte River Corridor in Denver. I ride the river between Thornton and Denver often so thank you Joe and Jeff. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Joe Shoemaker ran for mayor in 1971, and although he didn’t win that office, he found a cause: pushing for the cleanup of the Platte. Jeff was just back from his freshman year in college in June ’74 when his father said that Mayor Bill McNichols had asked him to head an effort to restore the river and was giving the Platte River Development Committee $2 million for the cause.

“I just remember thinking my dad was fifty and that was such a cool thing…but what did it mean?” Jeff recalls.

Fifteen months later, he found out when Confluence Park opened, the first of two targeted projects; the other was Globeville Landing Park. Confluence was at the juncture of the Platte and Cherry Creek, close to the very spot where Denver had gotten its start when gold was found just upriver in 1858. And now the Platte, and the park around it, was turning into liquid gold.

By 1982, Jeff was mining that gold. He was looking for something beyond his job as a schoolteacher, and after turning his dad down three times, he finally accepted a spot as executive director of the Greenway Foundation, the nonprofit that evolved from the PRDC, on a six-month trial basis.

Thirty years later, he’s still there. So is his almost-88-year-old father, in spirit if not in day-to-day operations. “There’s a difference I want to make clear,” Jeff makes clear. “This is and this remains my job, but my father has been a volunteer from day one. He’s not only never made a nickel off this, he’s donated six-figure money to the cause. He’s had opportunity after opportunity — but he’s avoided any conflicts. It’s not that we’re purists; it’s just that we’re realists.”[…]

Just how much abuse the South Platte itself can take is an open question. North of downtown, the river winds through an increasingly grimy and aromatic wasteland. It’s a sacrifice area, the legacy of a bargain struck long ago, a place where the rudiments of nature are subjugated to the demands of industry. For the beehives of commerce along its banks, the river isn’t a resource but a long-suffering appendage — and a handy dumping ground.

Looming over this stretch of the Platte is the Cherokee coal-fired power plant. Built between 1955 and 1968, the plant burns up to 5,600 tons of coal a day, creating steam with water drawn from the Platte and a Denver Water recycling plant, and generating enough electricity to power more than half a million homes. But Cherokee is one of the more benign neighbors. According to a recent report by Environment Colorado, the South Platte is the most polluted waterway in the state, absorbing almost 250,000 pounds of toxic chemicals a year.

One longtime contributor to that devil’s brew is the Suncor Energy oil refinery, a sprawling complex of tanks and machinery and railway sidings that hems in Brighton Boulevard on both sides. Contamination of groundwater at the site, which processes 90,000 barrels of crude oil a day, dates back decades. Suncor has been involved in cleanup efforts since it purchased the operation from Conoco in 2004, but the results have been something less than spectacular…

On a quiet, cloud-covered afternoon just around supper time, Tim Baker stands on the northern shoreline of the east pond at Elaine T. Valente Open Space with a fishing pole in his hand…

It’s not hard to see why he chose this place. On a clear day the park boasts some spectacular sightlines. To the southwest, you can catch the outline of the Denver skyline traced ever so faintly against a sprawling mountain-vista backdrop. Nestled on a stretch of road on East 104th Avenue between McKay and Brighton Roads, Elaine T. Valente Open Space comprises three fishable ponds that are linked together by an assortment of arterial bike and hiking trails that wind around the park and snake their way along the South Platte River. Motorists making their way down East 104th are most likely unaware of the wildlife and recreational activity taking place here. From the road, it looks like nothing more than a quaint roadside lake with a picnic shelter. Last Friday, a host of local politicians, led by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Governor Hickenlooper, announced that they had formed a partnership that will create uninterrupted trails and links that will connect Rocky Mountain National Park, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge and the numerous trail systems in between; Baker’s fishing hole will be part of that plan.

Click here to take a video bicycle ride down the South Platte River Trail.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Penrose Water board elections summary


From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

Voters in Penrose were filling two seats on the Penrose Water District Board. They selected Charlotte Norman, with 218 votes, and Richard Hilderbrand, with 196 votes, to fill the positions. Paul Maye also ran for the seat.

Wet Mountain Valley: Round Mountain directors election results


From the Wet Mountain Tribune (Nora Drenner):

Elected to the RMW board were current board members Charles Bogle with 147 votes and Chris Haga with 99 votes, followed by newcomer Ken Felty with 130 votes. Also running for a seat on the board was Dana Wyrick who received 78 votes. There were 760 eligible voters in the RMW election with 170 voters casting a vote, a 22 percent voter turnout.

The three will take office on June 7.

Rounding out the RMW board are Peggy Dunlap and Dee Hoag who were not up for re-election.

More Custer County coverage here.

The Rio Grande Roundtable ponies up $99,564 for a hydrgeologic study in the San Luis Valley near oil and gas exploration sites


From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

After an alternative proposal by roundtable member Charlie Spielman was defeated with only two votes supporting it, the roundtable voted to fund the study for $99,564 out of its basin account, with Spielman casting the only dissenting vote.

Rio Grande Roundtable Chairman Mike Gibson said the basin account had $263,000 in it as of April 12 and would probably be receiving more money when the state begins its new fiscal year this summer.

Rio Grande County Commissioner and roundtable member Karla Shriver, who represented the applicants on Tuesday, abstained from voting. She told the basin-wide water group the county wants to rely on scientific data to make informed decisions. While welcoming economic development, the commissioners want to ensure water quality, public safety and the agricultural economy that is the foundation of Rio Grande County, she explained. “We need economic development, but we need to do it in a prudent manner. That’s why we need information.”

She said the county is working closely with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC.) For example, the county leaders contacted the COGCC with concerns about leakage at the old Jynnifer well up Old Woman’s Creek. The site has been abandoned since 1987 but still has the well head and storage tanks there, where a leak has developed.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

The Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District is spending $1.2 billion to meet discharge permit requirements


From the Arvada Press (Darin Moriki):

The Denver Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District, which serves all but three cities in Jefferson County, is carrying out a $1.2 billion construction project to upgrade its treatment facilities to comply with discharge permit requirements. Steve Frank, the Denver Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District’s public information officer, said $211 million of that amount is being spent to construct a secondary treatment area to filter out additional ammonia and nitrates from treated waters. He said the project is scheduled for completion by Jan. 1, 2015.

State water-quality officials are considering more changes to discharge regulations…

Like many of the other 59 local governments served by the treatment plant, the city of Arvada passes wastewater treatment costs to homeowners and charges an additional fee to maintain the city’s 408-mile sewer system. Steve Wyant, Arvada’s wastewater superintendent, said the city is already addressing needs to replace miles of aging sewer infrastructure and expanding it to accommodate growth in the city’s northwest corner, including Candelas. He said the project cost is already estimated at almost $12 million.

More wastewater coverage here.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: The Arkansas River Voluntary Flow Program is delivering water to the mainstem


From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

As everyone has likely heard by now, we did haven’t much snow pack this year. As a result, I haven’t had much run-off information to share over the last several weeks. But, now that we are on the brink of summer, I thought a Memorial Weekend update on Fryingpan-Arkansas Project reservoirs and operations might be helpful.

We project that we will be importing below our average amount of water on the Fry-Ark. Typically, the project imports around 54,000 acre-feet of water a year from the upper reaches of the Fryingpan River basin. This year, we project we’ll only divert about 12,400 acre-feet of water.

That said, the Voluntary Flow Program for the Arkansas River is ON.

Today, Twin Lakes is releasing about 30 cfs. to Lake Creek. It has a water level elevation of about 9185 feet–that’s about 75% full. 75% full is actually close to average for this time of year.

Turquoise Reservoir is sitting at a water level elevation of about 9840 feet. That’s roughly 62% full, but Turquoise is usually filling this time of year with west-to-east slope water imports from several different projects. So, this water elevation is about average for May.

Pueblo Reservoir is at a water elevation of 4871 feet. That is roughly 70% full. But, 70% full is a little higher than we would see the reservoir this early in the season. This is because what run-off we did have peaked earlier than it would in a more average snow pack year.

Over on the west side of the Continental Divide, Ruedi Reservoir is slowly filling. Currently, it is at a water level elevation of 7745 feet. That’s roughly 81% full and slightly above average for this time of year. Like the East Slope, the West Slope also saw run-off flows come early this spring. We have maintained a release of 110 cfs from Ruedi to the Fryingpan River and that does not look likely to change for a while.

If you plan to visit one of our reservoirs over the holiday weekend, check out its current operations via our Colorado Lakes and Reservoir website. We have up-to-date information posted there.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The voluntary flow program initiated on the Upper Arkansas River in 1990 seeks to maintain water levels for rafting and fishing interests. One of the chief sources of water is the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which imports water from the Colorado River basin. “Water groups are coming together to make this season work,” said Rob White, Park Manager at the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. The problem is that the dwindling snowpack on the Western Slope is expected to provide little additional water this year.

“If the Bureau of Reclamation doesn’t have the water, it can’t provide it,” said Bob Hamilton, engineering supervisor for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

Participants in the agreement are Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Colorado Trout Unlimited, the Southeastern district, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the Arkansas River Outfitters Association. Reclamation did not sign the agreement, but seeks to time releases from Turquoise and Twin Lakes to meet target levels for the Arkansas River. Those releases also can be determined by large municipal operators — Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Aurora.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: 125 cfs in the Big Thompson River below Olympus Dam


From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

As everyone has likely heard by now, we didn’t have much snow pack this year. As a result, I haven’t had much run-off information to share over the last several weeks. But, now that we are on the brink of summer, I thought a Memorial Weekend update on Colorado-Big Thompson Project reservoirs and operations might be helpful.

Over on the west side of the Continental Divide, we’ve seen a steady release from Green Mountain Reservoir to the Lower Blue River of about 75 cfs. That does not appear likely to change in the near future. The reservoir is currently at a water level elevation of about 7920 feet, that’s about 64% full. That is actually slightly above what we might normally see in late May. This is because run-off in the Blue River Basin started early this year and we began filling at Green Mountain on April 1.

Similarly, storage levels at Granby, Willow Creek and Shadow Mountain reservoirs–where we collect the water that will be diverted to the East Slope–are also slightly higher than is typical for this time of year. Like Green Mountain, that is because we saw run-off start and peak early on the upper reaches of the Colorado River. Currently, Granby has a water level elevation of about 8263 feet, around 79% full, and is releasing about 53 cfs to the Colorado River at the Y gage. In a more normal snow pack year, we’d be releasing 75 cfs at the Y gage.

Willow Creek Reservoir, whose water is pumped up to Granby is about 82% full and Shadow Mountain Reservoir is around 96% full–it usually is.

Following the project over to the East Slope, we have seen fairly typical water elevations in Lake Estes for most of the spring. Releases from the reservoir through Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson River have not fluctuated much, averaging around 120 cfs for the past several weeks. Currently, releases to the Big T are closer to 125 cfs.

Pinewood and Flatiron water levels fluctuate fairly often. Water elevations rise and fall daily, depending on power generation at the Flatiron Power Plant. Over the last couple of weeks, Pinewood’s elevation declined, but we are steadily bringing it back up again. Next week, visitors to both reservoirs might notice some surveying going on. Reclamation employees will be out at the reservoirs looking at sediment.

The pump is on to Carter Lake and its water level elevation continues to rise. It’s currently at an elevation of 5735 feet, about 77% full. While it will go up in elevation a little more, how high it gets now depends on downstream demands. Demands will come up with hot and dry weather.

Horsetooth is in a similar situation. The reservoir saw its highest water level elevation (about 5424) for the summer season at the end of April/early May. It has been slowly dropping this month and is currently around 5419 feet–that’s roughly 87% full. Like Carter, summer water levels at Horsetooth depend largely on downstream demands, which depend largely on weather. We’ll see how hot and dry it gets.

If you plan to visit one of our reservoirs over the holiday weekend, check out its current operations via our Colorado Lakes and Reservoir website. We have up-to-date information posted there.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP): Storage is key to future growth


From the Boulder Daily Camera (Bob Juhl/Joseph A. Wilson/Carolyn Cutler):

Erie and Lafayette and the Left Hand Water District, which serves Eastern Boulder County, have spent the past decade studying the best methods to ensure our ability to access enough water to meet our future dry year needs. Together with 12 regional water providers, we determined that NISP is our best option from more than 200 options studied. NISP is not only the most environmentally sensitive project, but also the best solution from an economic standpoint.

Some believe the region will be fine without NISP. We wholeheartedly disagree. In fact, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement states clearly that if NISP is not built, one of the consequences will be the elimination of 100 square miles of irrigated farmland in Northern Colorado because communities will have to purchase necessary water supplies from farmers. One of NISP’s goals is to keep water on farms to ensure their continued operation.

Northern Colorado will continue to grow regardless of whether NISP is built or not. Colorado needs to keep available water supplies in the state for its citizens. From 2009 to 2011 Colorado saw more than 1.4 million acre feet of water leave the state to Nebraska over and above what is required. That’s enough water to supply the entire Front Range of Colorado with water for a year…

Please go to gladereservoir.org for more information about NISP and an upcoming support rally scheduled for July 24.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

Crop irrigation and the need to manage a high water table and salinity go hand in hand


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Jim Valliant):

When the early agricultural producers developed the Arkansas River for irrigation, they began to battle the salt problems in the basin by digging miles of drainage ditches and also installing miles of sub-surface tile drainage systems. This battle continues today.

Salts and waterlogging, due to high water tables, are causing crop yield losses of 10 to 90 percent on irrigated farmland throughout the Arkansas River basin according to studies by Tim Gates and Luis Garcia, Colorado State University civil engineers.

Farmers have to use every source of skills that they have to battle this intruder.

So farmers have to be amateur agronomists, chemists, engineers, entomologists, financial planners, marketers and soil scientists.

The good news is that farmers are winning this battle through improved technology. New seed development, improved cultural methods and irrigation technology are leading the attack on this age-old enemy. Alfalfa is averaging around 5 tons per acre with many fields exceeding that yield. Corn yields have broken the 200 bushel per acre barrier. Wheat yields are in the 100 bushel per acre range and many vegetable yields have doubled because of new technology such as sub-surface drip irrigation, plastic mulch and new varieties.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities appeals recent permit decision by Judge Reyes


From KRDO.com (Rana Novini):

Colorado Springs Utilities says the April ruling is unfortunate and they have always met water quality standards. They joined the City of Colorado Springs, and the State of Colorado in filing an appeal against that ruling.

On Friday, Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut stood near the Fountain Creek Flood Control marker in Pueblo and vowed he would not stop fighting against SDS. He held up two jars of water: one he said was from Lake Pueblo, the other from Fountain Creek. “You can see (the latter jar) is rather muddy and contaminated as compared to the Lake Pueblo water,” Thiebaut said. He attributes the pollution to Colorado Springs’ development projects, saying the runoff ends up in Fountain Creek. He says that Colorado Springs takes the clean water in Pueblo Reservoir and returns used, dirty water to Fountain Creek.

Mark Pifher of Colorado Springs Utilities works directly with water quality regarding SDS. He tells KRDO NewsChannel 13 that the pollution in Fountain Creek has nothing to do with SDS. “At this point in time, Southern Delivery is not yet operational. So that’s the ambient condition, if you will, of Fountain Creek,” Pifher said.
In a written statement from the Tenth Judicial District, Thiebaut claims the pollution in Fountain Creek has caused illness to Pueblo County residents. But Pifher says Utilities has never been made aware of any illnesses.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (John Norton):

In April, District Judge Victor Reyes ruled on a suit filed by Thiebaut and threw out a state water quality permit the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission gave the project.

Reyes ruled that the commission ignored potential impacts of growth on Fountain Creek water quality and failed to follow its own procedures in upholding a 2010 permit under section 401 of the Clean Water Act.

Friday afternoon, Thiebaut called on the state and Colorado Springs to give up the appeal. He held up jars of clear Pueblo Reservoir water and cloudy water from Fountain Creek.

Standing near the flood control marker across from the El Centro del Quinto Sol community center, he said, “Now, Colorado Springs wants to take this pristine (lake) water, use it in Colorado Springs and then discharge more of its used wastewater and stormwater into Fountain Creek.

From the Colorado Springs Independent:

…a new study from Summit Economics LLC says Colorado Springs residents pay less ($4.63 per capita annually) than those of every other Front Range city. The average is $52.11. To reach that average, El Paso County would have to impose a half-percent sales tax (50 cents on a $100 purchase), a property tax of 5.8 mills ($93 on the tax bill of a $200,000 house) or a $5.35 per month fee per home. Any of those taxing methods would yield the roughly $36 million a year needed to tackle a $600 million backlog for the county, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Fountain and Monument, the study says.

And the issue lies here, not downstream in Pueblo County, which accounts for only 1 percent of the region’s stormwater infrastructure needs, the study found.

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, which covers portions of Pueblo and El Paso Counties, funded the study, and its manager Larry Small says the board is eying a November 2013 election if a tax increase is sought.

From the Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chaćon):

Bach said his administration inherited “upwards of a billion” dollars in unfunded capital needs, including stormwater, and that the city needed to “come to grips” with the problem. “The day of reckoning is in front of us,” Bach said.

The lack of stormwater funding has other consequences that City Attorney Chris Melcher has said obligates Utilities, a billion-dollar-plus enterprise of the city. Stormwater is a crucial element of the 62-mile Southern Delivery System water pipeline that Utilities is building between Colorado Springs and Pueblo…

The Board of Pueblo County Commissioners, which issued the so-called 1041 permit for SDS, is now applying pressure on the city, too. The board sent Bach and the council a letter May 3, saying it was “encouraged” by reports that the city was exploring ways to fund stormwater but that it needed to act fast…

“A key component was the Stormwater Enterprise,” they wrote. “Unfortunately, in December 2009, only a few months after it obtained its SDS permits, Colorado Springs Council voted to abolish its Stormwater Enterprise fees.”

SDS spokeswoman Janet Rummel said the city’s stormwater issue is much broader than SDS. “Not only is utilities infrastructure impacted by stormwater run-off, but City and County roads and bridges are also affected for example,” she said in an email.

More coverage from the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

After the enterprise was dismantled in 2009, the Springs City Council assured Pueblo County that a replacement funding source would be developed, Pueblo County commissioners note, but more than 2.5 years later, no such funding has been secured.

Pueblo County issued a construction permit for SDS, and that permit could be rescinded if Colorado Springs doesn’t live up to its promises.

County President Pro Tem Jan Martin wrote a letter to Pueblo County dated May 10, two days after Bach talked of a stormwater-related “day of reckoning” awaiting the Springs. In it, Martin says, “Protecting our watershed is a high priority for City Council …”

Really? Where’s the evidence? Rather, the Council is busy getting its package of road projects together to be included in an extension of a sales tax for the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority. The tax doesn’t sunset until the end of 2014, but Councilors and others are rabid to get it renewed and want it on this November’s ballot.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.