From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
A district formed to fix Fountain Creek is anxious to see how Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach will react to findings of an El Paso County stormwater task force. The question was raised at Friday’s meeting of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District by Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart. “The district has a statutory function to tackle flood control,” Hart said. “We have a major role.”
While most of the participants in the stormwater task force are also represented on the Fountain Creek board, Pueblo County’s interests can be incorporated through the district.
But Hart questioned El Paso County and Colorado Springs representatives about Bach’s willingness to allow the stormwater study and funding recommendations to move forward. Bach balked at the task force findings in January that Colorado Springs has a backlog of $680 million in stormwater projects. He ordered up a separate study to verify those needs.
The task force is wrapping up phase II of its study and will issue another report in October. “Hopefully, when the report comes out, (Bach) will jump in,” said Gabe Ortega, Fountain mayor pro-tem, who chairs the Fountain Creek board. “The majority of the region is on-board and ready to move forward.”
Richard Skorman, a former Colorado Springs councilman who lost to Bach in the 2011 election, said the task force is sorting out the possibilities of how funds to address stormwater could be raised — through a fee based on area or sales tax, for instance — and has not reached a recommendation.
Whichever method of funding is chosen, a public vote is likely to be required, and officials are aiming for a 2014 election date.
“I think the mayor is willing to sit down and look at a regional meeting, but he’s not embracing the task force,” Skorman said.
Why it matters
Pueblo officials have sought protection from floods on Fountain Creek while Colorado Springs worked to expand its water system to accommodate the rapid growth that has occurred in the past four decades by providing redundancy in water supply and to meet the needs of future growth.
Having a stormwater enterprise in place was listed as a given in Colorado Springs Utilities permits for its $940 million Southern Delivery System.
Last week, Bach and City Council President Keith King told Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace that the city is not required to have an enterprise in place or fund stormwater projects at a specific level.
Pace disputed that, but Pueblo County commissioners would have to hold a formal hearing to determine if Colorado Springs has violated the conditions of its 1041 permit for SDS.
The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District has asked the Bureau of Reclamation to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement for SDS because stormwater control has deteriorated since 2009, when Colorado Springs City Council abolished the stormwater enterprise, based on its interpretation of a municipal ballot question.