From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Colorado Springs Utilities will have an easier time meeting conditions of its 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System with Pueblo County as a result of a settlement agreement with Walker Ranches.
The $7.1 million settlement reached June 16 includes $5.78 million to pay a $4.75 million judgment awarded by a Pueblo jury in May plus interest dating back to 2011. Another $1.34 million covers the court costs and expenses incurred by Walker Ranches.
But the agreement does much more.
Pueblo County commissioners are making plans for a compliance hearing later this year on several conditions included in the 1041 permit, including Colorado Springs’ promises to revegetate the entire route of the SDS pipeline through Pueblo County and the provision that landowners would not pay out-of-pocket expenses.
But any issues concerning Walker Ranches are resolved, according to the settlement.
The Pueblo Chieftain obtained a copy of the confidential settlement agreement through a Colorado Open Records Act request after the document was alluded to at the June 26 meeting of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.
The agreement blocks Gary Walker, principal owner of the ranches, and Utilities from discussing its contents without mutual consent.
Walker had been vocal about damage to the ranchland before and after the jury trial.
The agreement specifies three conditions and accompanying mitigation appendices in the 1041 permit that pre-empt any complaints about compliance from Walker Ranches.
It still leaves open the question of Pueblo County determination of compliance regarding revegetation.
In return, Colorado Springs will address several of Walker’s concerns which it fought in court.
Those include fencing off the area being revegetated, paying Walker $300 per acre annually for the area that is being fenced, working with Walker on improving drainage and modifying the language in its easement if it interferes with future conservation easements.
Future construction activities on the easement are to be addressed separately, according to the settlement.
In addition to revegetation questions, the county is looking at whether Colorado Springs is complying with its commitment to control stormwater.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and City Council President Merv Bennett outlined plans for stormwater funding to Pueblo City Council this week. Suthers also has met individually with Commissioners Liane “Buffie” McFadyen, Terry Hart and Sal Pace.
Colorado Springs wants to include Pueblo County and other entities in a stormwater agreement that would provide input about whether stormwater improvements benefit Pueblo. Stormwater control is important because of the increased base flow in Fountain Creek as a result of more water coming through the SDS pipeline.
More Southern Delivery System coverage here