Officials: Bach’s Fountain Creek plan falls short — The Pueblo Chieftain

Fountain Creek Watershed
Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach’s solution for stormwater control falls far short of what Pueblo was promised in the years leading up to the approval of Southern Delivery System, local leaders say.

“I think it’s tragic and sad the city of Colorado Springs would treat its neighbors this way,” said Jay Winner, executive director of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, which is planning to sue Colorado Springs following the defeat of a regional drainage fee in the Nov. 4 election.

Bach on Monday proposed an extension of tax revenue bonds that would provide $40 million for stormwater over five years. That’s short of the critical $160 million and total $535 million in stormwater needs identified by Colorado Springs.

“The regional drainage fee would have raised nearly $40 million in one year,” Winner said.

Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart agreed that the amount is not sufficient. Bach’s proposal just aggravates the situation, given the mayor’s opposition to the regional drainage question, he said.

“Under his proposal, stormwater is lumped in with other issues. Our critical needs get lost in the excitement of other projects,” Hart said.

The commissioners hold the fate of Colorado Springs’ 1041 permit for SDS in their hands. Those conditions, written in 2009, are predicated on the existence of a stormwater enterprise to address flows on Fountain Creek.

“It’s too little money,” Hart said. “The ballot question was too little for the amount of work that needs to be done, but it was a good compromise.” Both Winner and Hart said Pueblo City Council needs to get involved as well, given that it is a party in a 2004 intergovernmental agreement that obligated Colorado Springs to support Pueblo issues if SDS were built.

“Where is the city of Pueblo during this? They have the most to lose from the continued mismanagement of Fountain Creek,” Winner said.

Meanwhile, a district dedicated to protecting Fountain Creek likely will bring up the topic at its Dec. 12 meeting in Pueblo.

“I don’t even call it a plan. It’s not even touching the problem,” said Larry Small, a former Colorado Springs City Council member who now is the executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District. “The mayor’s proposal is absolutely irresponsible and does nothing to address the needs of the city.”

The district supported the regional drainage question and works with both Colorado Springs and Pueblo in flood control projects. The drainage fee was needed not only to meet the identified $700 million in backlogged projects, but new projects that are being identified on Monument Creek,” Small said.

“We’re still interested in a regional solution,” Small said. “The mayor’s proposal goes after non-needs, not prospective needs of the city.”

Last week, Colorado Springs City Council member Merv Bennett told the Lower Ark board that the council also is interested in reviving the regional approach.

Former Lower Ark board chairman John Singletary said Colorado Springs’ attempts to smooth the waters ring hollow. Singletary pushed the Colorado Springs Council in 2005 to institute a stormwater enterprise, then to fund it in 2007 and finally tried to urge the council not to abolish it in 2009.

“What their mayor’s talking about is a joke,” Singletary said. “It’s the same old problem. They need to be responsible and make sure the water quality is acceptable to Pueblo and everyone else downstream to the Kansas state line. This is just insulting to Pueblo.”

More stormwater coverage here.

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