Fountain Creek: Will potential Pueblo County stormwater lawsuit impact the Southern Delivery System?

Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation
Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

From the Colorado Springs Independent (John Hazlehurst):

Let’s consider the Southern Delivery System, which, according to a 2013 white paper from Colorado Springs Utilities, will cure our water worries.

“SDS is more than a pipeline,” wrote CEO Jerry Forte. “SDS will serve as an engine driving more efficiency, effectiveness and reliability in our system, while protecting water rights from future threats. SDS makes our entire water system more than the sum of its parts.”

And if SDS isn’t available? Forte predicted higher rates, permanent watering restrictions and, as other systems age, the risk of long-term outages.

“A future without SDS,” Forte concluded, “could jeopardize our ability to meet future water demand, the reliability of our system, our valuable permits and approvals, and our community’s economic stability.”

There’s a tiny little cloud on the horizon — the lawsuit Pueblo County may be preparing to file over Colorado Springs’ inability to fund reliable flood control in Fountain Creek. And that’s to say nothing of a similar lawsuit threat from the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, which isn’t related to SDS directly but still could imperil the project.

CSU has issued a harrumphing press release, claiming a lawsuit from Pueblo would be without merit. But is it possible that Pueblo, and/or its ally, could prevail?

I’m not a distinguished attorney (you’ve confused me with my daughter, Melanie Hazlehurst Gavisk). But although the law’s nuances may elude me, I’m not encouraged by CSU’s (or the city’s) track record in litigation…

So here we are again. What happens if we lose, and local voters refuse once again to fund stormwater infrastructure?

So far, we’ve spent about $600 million on SDS, most of it borrowed. We’ll still have to pay it back. Worst-case scenario: Drought intensifies in California and the entire Colorado River Basin, our existing sources of supply are threatened, and we have to fund a reuse/recycle system. Desirable as that may sound to some environmentalists, it’d be hugely expensive, and would drive water rates into the stratosphere. Lawns? Gardens? Trees? Forget ’em.

There’s a solution at hand, though. If Council agrees to refer to the ballot Mayor Steve Bach’s proposal to issue $160 million in capital improvement bonds to fund stormwater and other infrastructure for the next five years, and our flighty voters approve — problem solved for now.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here.

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