From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Pueblo County is a step closer to calling for a hearing to decide whether to repeal or significantly alter the provisions of a 1041 permit allowing the Southern Delivery System to be built through the county.
On Monday, commissioners gave direction to staff to release a report to Colorado Springs detailing the progress of an investigation into whether that city’s lack of any specific funding for storm water permits constitutes a violation of the permit.
According to the report, staff’s recommendation is that, so far, the investigation shows there’s enough evidence to go forward with a show cause hearing on the 1041 document. But staff also asked for permission to hold off on issuing such an order until the first of August.
Waiting two months would give staff time to continue working with Colorado Springs, hire Denver-based Wright Water Engineering as a storm water consultant and give the new mayor and city council in Colorado Springs time to assess the issues for themselves.
“I am confident that there is some probability of success in coming up with some solutions to bring to the board, either as revised conditions or new amendments to the agreement,” said Ray Petros, water counsel to Pueblo County.
Petros said that it’s been six years since there was any dedicated funding in place for Colorado Springs’ storm water improvements and in that time, the number of infrastructure improvements that could help mitigate flows and improve water quality in the Fountain Creek have backlogged to the point that nearly $534 million worth of projects are awaiting completion.
Staff has been investigating the issue since April. Petros said it has been difficult to ascertain what high-priority projects have been completed or what kind of money has actually been spent on projects that would be beneficial to Pueblo County.
At the core of the investigation is the Springs’ decision to disband its storm water enterprise in 2009, along with the failure at the polls in 2014 of a measure to establish a new enterprise.
“Our issue has been from Day 1 that the 1041 permit requires some kind of dedicated funding,” said Commissioner Terry Hart. “No pun intended, but it’s been six years of water under the bridge and we’re painfully aware of that.”
Petros quoted a few passages within the 1041 permit that mentioned the funding source specifically, including the environmental impact statements attached to the permit.
The original staff report noted that the delay also gave Colorado Springs Utilities time to respond to information requests, but Hart said he felt Pueblo should set the timeline on that response.
Public Works Director Alf Randall said that the information requested by staff wasn’t complicated but understood if Colorado Springs staffers preferred to wait until the new mayor and council were sworn in.
Randall also said it would be good to have the information once Wright Water’s contract with Pueblo was finalized.
“I don’t understand what would be highly complex about providing staff a list of projects in 2015,” Randall said.
He said he thought it could be done by June 1.
The commissioners then directed that the June 1 deadline be included in the memo to Colorado Springs.
There are likely more investigations to follow. Commissioner Sal Pace asked staff to consider land purchases, reclamaneighbors. tion issues and potential impacts to Pueblo West homeowners in the investigation.
But the investigation came from a resolution focusing specifically on storm water issues.
All three commissioners said they would like to see future investigations into those other issues.
The commissioners also noted that the past week’s rainfall was a reminder of the urgency for the improvements, as runoff from Colorado Springs churned mud and debris in Fountain Creek and eroded property along Overton Road.
“We have a job to advocate for our constituents and I think the representatives from Colorado Springs, whether they like the process or not, would agree there’s been an impact to the community,” said Commission Chairwoman Liane “Buffie” McFadyen.