Colorado Springs: Mayor Suthers wants $19 million for stormwater

Fountain Creek Watershed
Fountain Creek Watershed

From KKTV.com:

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers is asking for $19 million a year to mitigate the flow of Fountain Creek as it goes downstream. He told 11 News $8 million would come from bonds, $3 million from Springs Utilities and $3 million from the city’s general fund. That still leave $5 million for the plan to work, meaning there could be budget cuts…

“We’re prepared to make budget cuts and sacrifices as necessary to resolve this issue. We’ve got to get this issue behind us and move on with relations between Pueblo and Colorado Springs,” said Suthers.

He told 11 News cutting city employee salaries could be how they make up the rest of the money needed for the plan, although nothing is set in stone yet and there is a lot of work to be done before the plan is finalized.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs sent something other than rushing water, logs and mud Pueblo’s way Monday.

Springs Mayor John Suthers and City Council President Merv Bennett met with the Pueblo City Council at its work session to backfill trust that has been eroding when it comes to Fountain Creek.

“We are going to fund our stormwater requirements,” Bennett said. “We will resolve this. We owe it to all the people in the Arkansas Valley.”

Suthers said it was not fair to Pueblo and other communities downstream that Colorado Springs City Council yanked funding from its stormwater utility in 2010 on a split decision after a murky 2009 vote. That meant funding of about $16 million annually washed away.

“At one time Colorado Springs was committed to funding stormwater and then it went away,” Suthers said. “That was flat unfair to Pueblo.”

Colorado Springs voters last year again rejected a regional stormwater fee and Suthers doesn’t want to keep going back to the same well. Instead, he and the current council want to put a road tax to a vote and find the money for flood control in the Colorado Springs general fund.

“Selling roads to the voters is easier than stormwater,” Suthers said.

The plan is to shift funding to provide $19 million a year for stormwater, which Suthers said could strain other departments, but is necessary for Springs to uphold its commitments.

Pueblo Councilman Bob Schilling called the presentation “a breath of fresh air,” but reminded Suthers and Bennett that Colorado Springs also has a $50 million commitment to fund flood control on Fountain Creek when Southern Delivery System goes online early next year.

That money will be controlled by the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, which has both El Paso and Pueblo counties members.

“The most important thing is that the $50 million cannot benefit Colorado Springs, and don’t split hairs,” said Schilling, the only council member who was serving in 2004 when intergovernmental agreements were signed to protect Arkansas River flows through Pueblo. “I hope you’re real serious and have a way to follow through.”

Bennett and Suthers gave assurances that Colorado Springs plans to incorporate the needs of downstream communities, including Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, into planning, hinting that future agreements are in the works.

“This is an issue that needs to be dealt with, that needs to be put behind us,” Suthers said.

Pueblo Councilman Chris Nicoll said Springs appears to be more concerned with containing the flows off the Waldo Canyon burn scar than living up to past commitments on Fountain Creek.

“The water from the burn scar doesn’t stop at Colorado Springs,” Bennett said, but added the city must address downstream concerns. “We’ve been investing $20 million a year, and a lot of that is from grants. These dollars are not grant money, but coming out of our general fund.”

From KOAA.com (Lena Howland):

Mayor John Suthers presented a plan to fund a permanent storm water enterprise. He says with this plan he is committed to the people of Pueblo and solving the flood problems.

A shake of the hand. This is how City Council President Steve Nawrocki ended tonight’s presentation from Colorado Springs Major John Suthers.

“We have an obligation to the folks in Pueblo to do the best job we can to mitigate some of those impacts caused by Fountain Creek on Pueblo,” Suthers said…

Mayor Suthers presented an idea to Pueblo City Council that would use $19 million a year of Colorado Springs city revenue to mitigate the devastating flow of Fountain Creek into Pueblo.

“We’re prepared to make budget cuts and sacrifices that’s necessary to resolve this issue. We’ve got to get this issue behind us and move on,” he said.

News5 has been tracking much of the Fountain Creek flood damage as beds along this creek have been deteriorating for the past several weeks. And Suthers knows this problem needs immediate attention.

“That’s just part of being responsible and being a good neighbor,” Suthers said.

Pueblo City Councilman Bob Schilling asked Suthers for reassurance that Colorado Springs is on board.

“You’re going to have to stand tall and get your people to care enough about Pueblo to tax themselves on it. And that’s going to be a real project,” Schilling said.

But Schilling sees this as a step in the right direction.

“I truly believe that you all are, hopefully, what I see as a breath of fresh air as far as commitment,” he said.

This is far from a done deal. Suthers must also approach Pueblo County Commissions in hopes of avoiding legal action.

Moving forward, they must decide how to hold Colorado Springs accountable if the city doesn’t come up with the annual minimum payment to Pueblo and, how much input Pueblo will have on these mitigation efforts.

More stormwater coverage here.

Leave a Reply