From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Overshadowing the need to look at the technical details of a study for a dam or detention ponds on Fountain Creek is how it would be funded. As of this week, the study has been battered about with all the care of an uprooted tree bobbing in the water. Other water issues may be getting snagged on it.
In May, Colorado Springs City Council stonewalled funding the study.
This week, the Arkansas Basin Roundtable couldn’t get past the issue of water rights and shrugged off consideration of a state grant for $135,000 that would have been part of a $220,000, 2-year study to look at the consequences of a dam and the feasibility of building it.
Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, was frustrated after the meeting. Small walked the roundtable through the years of studies that led up to the conclusion that the best way to protect Pueblo from stormwater runoff in Colorado Springs — much of it made worse by development in the last 40 years — is to stop the water upstream of Pueblo.
“Is there a way to balance the needs of flood control and water rights or do we just throw up our hands?” Small said at one point during the meeting. “It may not be possible, but we need to find out.”
After the meeting, he was clearly frustrated.
“This is such a small part of the overall costs,” he said, slapping his hand against a folder of supporting information for the study.
During the meeting, several roundtable members made the point that junior agricultural water rights could be harmed during a flood.
The Fountain Creek district has attempted to deal with that in the past, including a comprehensive workshop on the topic, attended by some farmers, in December 2011.
Some saw value in looking at the water rights question just to determine if the rest of the study could proceed.
“This at least gets the conversation on the table,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.
In the end, the water rights question became a deal stopper.
There also are side issues that play into the question, such as a simmering feud between the Fountain Creek and Lower Ark districts about how matching money for grants has been applied under an intergovernmental agreement among the districts and Colorado Springs.
“I would encourage the IGA partners to come together soon and resolve their differences,” said Alan Hamel, the basin’s representative on the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
Hamel was one of the few roundtable members who spoke in favor of the grant.
“I think this is a wakeup call for the Fountain Creek district,” Winner said. “You don’t just sit up in Fountain and pretend to rule the world. The district needs to realize it’s in the water business.”