Pueblo County leaders are beating the drum for Colorado Springs to re-establish a stormwater enterprise

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

While the storm [Wednesday], centered over Colorado Springs for three hours, did little to impact Pueblo County, it caused internal problems. At a news conference Thursday, [Colorado Springs] Mayor Steve Bach said $7 million in city funds would be transferred to stormwater needs. About 40 people had to be rescued. Some comments from frustrated citizens on the Internet early Thursday, chided the City Council for dropping the stormwater enterprise in 2009…

“There has to be a steady stream of revenue,” said [Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District], who worked to convince Colorado Springs to adopt the stormwater enterprise in 2005. “I don’t see how $7 million does anything to address the $500 million in capital needs that have been identified.”[…]

State Rep. Sal Pace, DPueblo, agreed, saying the enterprise was providing $12 million-$15 million a year before the City Council eliminated it. Pace is drafting a letter to Colorado Springs demanding action on the stormwater question…

Pace said Colorado Springs voters are seeing the problems that resulted from the 2009 passage of Issue 300, which was interpreted by City Council as a mandate to repeal what tax-crusader Doug Bruce called a “rain tax.”[…]

County Commissioner Jeff Chostner, who chairs the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board, said Colorado Springs has to address its stormwater problems immediately.

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

A rainstorm parked itself over [Colorado Springs] for about three hours Wednesday, dropping up to 4 inches of rain. Areas to the north and south of the city received less rain, anywhere from 0.5-2 inches. About 40 people and one dog had to be rescued from high water that collected in Colorado Springs, according to news reports. Mayor Steve Bach called it a “100-year flood,” but it wasn’t even close. It was about a 10-year event on Fountain Creek at Security, and the threat diminished as water traveled downstream, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

While Pueblo braced for possible flooding, the effects were fairly minor by the time the water traveled 40 miles down the Fountain Creek channel. “It did not take away the hot tub that the flood last September deposited in my pasture, so I am very disappointed,” quipped Bill Alt, whose home is on Fountain Creek just north of Pueblo. “On the upside, it irrigated the pasture, which was good since we’ve had no moisture this year.”

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

Pueblo County is threatening to suspend a permit for the Southern Delivery System water pipeline unless Colorado Springs spends more money on stormwater improvements next year. A condition of the so-called 1041 permit requires Colorado Springs to have an adequate stormwater management plan, Pueblo County Attorney Dan Kogovsek said Thursday…

Pueblo County is “very concerned” that Colorado Springs’ capital improvements to prevent stormwater damage have fallen by the wayside since the demise of the Stormwater Enterprise more than two years ago, Kogovsek said. When the enterprise was in operation, the city was spending about $13.3 million annually on maintenance, capital improvement projects and required permits. This year, the city budgeted $3.3 million for maintenance and permits but nothing for capital improvements. Kogovsek said the county will keep a close eye on the city’s 2013 budget to see how much Colorado Springs plans to spend on stormwater…

Mayor Steve Bach, who marked his first year in office Thursday, has sounded the alarm about the city’s stormwater needs. As part of his funding solution, he wants the City Council to direct Utilities to come up with $12 million to $15 million from its existing budget and rate base. “Why should Colorado Springs Utilities be involved in this? In my view, because Utilities will be bringing Southern Delivery System water here from down at the Pueblo Dam and the Arkansas River,” Bach said during a news conference Thursday in the wake of Wednesday’s storm. “Utilities will thereby be, frankly, exacerbating our stormwater challenges because after that water is used locally — whether it’s domestic consumption or irrigation or other purposes – it will be returned. It’s called return flow and that water will be additive to Fountain Creek flow going back down south. At least that’s a pragmatic reason that I see that Utilities should partner with us,” he said.

From the Colorado Springs Utilities twitter feed (@CSUtilities) yesterday:

Unmanaged storm flows outside of Colorado Springs city limits can jeopardize investments made within the city.

And:

We believe stormwater flows must be managed regionally, to fully protect our community’s investments.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

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