Colorado Springs Utilities is still conducting damage assessments from last week’s floods #COflood

Storm pattern over Colorado September 2013: Graphic/NWS via USA Today
Storm pattern over Colorado September 2013 — Graphic/NWS via USA Today

From (Sam Baranowski):

Manitou Springs’ Hydro plant flooded, shorting circuits, access to high voltage lines is cut off and flumes meant to divert water are overwhelmed with debris. Millions of dollars worth of work will soon begin and will likely continue into 2013. CSU managers said they will all have to reallocate much of their budgets, and will feel the pinch from these repairs for years. But, their biggest challenge right now is getting to the damage to finish their assessments. There are still dozens of locations including pipelines that need to be checked out, but that can’t happen until the flood waters recede…

Allison and other managers showed the Utilities Board before and after pictures their staff took in accessible locations. Photos of a sediment basin created to catch debris running down from the Waldo Canyon burn scar showed the most dramatic difference. “We thought that it’d be 6-8 years before it was full, and this storm brought it all in in one shot so it’s full to the top now,” [Tyler Allison, General Manager of Water Systems Operations at CSU] said…

Currently, the city is missing out on 8 to 10 million gallons of water each day intakes including those at South Cheyenne Cañon and Manitou Springs are down. Colorado Springs is still technically in a drought, despite more saturated grounds and significant rains. That’s because our water storage is still just at 56%, which is 1.8 years’ worth.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

Mud and water made its way into one hydroelectric plant, shutting it down. Pickup truck-size boulders landed, and remain, on top of utility pipelines. And the $4.5 million in drainage control projects built in recent months in the Waldo Canyon burn scar were tested and in some cases destroyed. It’s too soon to estimate the cost of the damage caused by the recent flooding, but it will be in the millions, said Tyler Allison, general manager of Colorado Springs Utilities water systems operations. In some cases, Utilities managers can’t get close enough to assess the damage because of wiped out roads or flooded buildings, he said…

Eight feet of mud and moisture seeped into the Manitou 3 hydroelectric system and forced an outage. There was an outage at Drake 5 too, said George Luke, general manager of energy supply. There was some wet coal and crews had to dig deep into the coal piles to get to the dry stuff for use. A maintenance shop was flooded, Luke said. “But fortunately the equipment is up on pedal stools,” he said. “It was basically a clean up job.”

Drainage control projects in the Waldo Canyon burn scar were close to being completed, Allison said. Both logs and rebar were used to make a series of steps and basins in hopes of catching sediment and slowing water from gushing down into the city. But a week of rain filled the basins and water ran right over the control points. “Another two months and we would not have suffered as much damage that caused the issues,” he said. Overall, the wastewater system held up well, said Leah Ash, general manager of distribution, collection and treatment. She recalled the 1999 storm that busted pipes filled living rooms with raw sewage. Some of the pipes were more than 100 years old at that time, she said. When the ground got soaked, it dislodged the pipes and the movement busted them wide open.

Allison said at least 10 major pipelines – including Cheyenne Creek structures, Homestake pipeline and Fountain Valley Authority pipeline – still must be inspected for damage. “We are just at the beginning of the assessment,” he said. “Some areas we just can’t get to and there are some (areas) we don’t know about it.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Recent rains have made a mess of the Southern Delivery System pipeline route through Pueblo County on Walker Ranches.

Gary Walker might feel vindicated, since the problems with the route that he pointed out over years of SDS hearings are coming to pass.

But he’s more likely miserable, because the damages are becoming more costly with each new storm as hillsides crossed by the pipeline erode.

“They still haven’t hit the gully washer of twoplus inches,” Walker said. “When that happens, part of Walker Ranches will be in Pueblo West and there will be a few new public attractions: the Walker Gorge and the Pueblo West Mud Flats.”

Walker is hoping for action Friday from the Pueblo County commissioners that will hold Colorado Springs Utilities to its commitments under a 1041 land-use permit issued in 2009. A public meeting on the 1041 conditions will be at 9 a.m. Friday at the Pueblo County Courthouse.

Those conditions require the disturbed property to be restored to the condition it was prior to pipeline construction.

For its part, Utilities says it is working on the issues raised by Walker.

“We’ve already agreed to do 18 mitigations,” said Mark Pifher, Utilities point man for SDS permit issues. “After the storms in August, we flew the entire pipeline route and came up with 20 more.”

Walker said that shouldn’t have been necessary if proper actions would have been taken along the way. He did not want to elaborate on the specific suggestions because he still is involved in condemnation hearings in district court, but said less costly fixes would have been possible before pipe was put into the ground.

“Colorado Springs Utilities has met with us umpteen times in the last 15 months since I discovered the first problem in June of last year,” Walker said. “They have been great at talking to us, but have done nothing but give us lip service. There has not been one thing done to fix the problem.”

The 66-inch diameter pipeline runs from Pueblo Dam through Pueblo West and Walker Ranches along a 50-mile route to Colorado Springs. The $940 million first phase of the SDS project is expected to be completed in 2016, and will deliver water to Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

With water gushing from all directions after weekend flooding elsewhere, La Junta stayed mostly high and dry thanks to regional cooperation from water officials and ditch companies.

“La Junta dodged a bullet,” Otero County Commissioner Keith Goodwin told the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board Wednesday.

While there was minor flooding in North La Junta on Monday, it could have been much worse. The area has experienced devastating flooding in the past, most recently in 1999.

The problem was the surge of water down Fountain Creek from earlier storms, high water on the Arkansas River, a raging Apishapa River and 4 inches of rain near Fowler. A storm cloud hovered over the Chico Creek basin east of Pueblo, but there are no stream gauges to measure how much was contributed from that area.

The solution was to run water into every available canal to reduce the peak flow on the Arkansas River through La Junta, coordinated by Lonnie Spady, the head water commissioner for the Division of Water Resources in Districts 17 and 67.

“Those ditches upstream played a significant role in peeling off the flows,” said Steve Witte, Division 2 engineer.

Water filled the Fort Lyon, Fort Lyon storage, Catlin, High Line, Otero and Holbrook canals, essentially cutting the volume of water in half.

Goodwin also credited the North La Junta Conservation District for removing tamarisk trees in the Arkansas River channel over the past two years. This improved the river’s ability to pass water downstream.

The Bureau of Reclamation also cut flows from Pueblo Dam during the peak of Fountain Creek flooding, although inflows to the reservoir were very high over the weekend as well.

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