From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Colorado Springs Utilities tried to assure a district that has threatened federal court action that it fully intends to fund stormwater control on Fountain Creek.
“We have been working with Pueblo County on an intergovernmental agreement that deals with one topic: stormwater,” Colorado Springs spokesman Mark Pifher told the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board Wednesday.
He said there have been three drafts of the IGA, which was initiated shortly after John Suthers was elected mayor.
“We’re meeting again next Tuesday, and hope to reach an understanding of what our commitments are,” Pifher said.
Colorado Springs had a stormwater enterprise in place in 2009 when Pueblo County approved a 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System.
The enterprise was initiated in 2005 with the participation of the Lower Ark District. The district had a larger portfolio of water issues it wanted to address with Colorado Springs, but made headway only with Fountain Creek flood control issues.
Over the next few years, they spent a combined $1.2 million to develop a plan and keep the newly formed Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District afloat.
After the Colorado Springs City Council voted to abolish the stormwater enterprise, the Lower Ark district began to prepare a federal lawsuit, first against the Bureau of Reclamation and now against Colorado Springs, claiming violation of the federal Clean Water Act.
For the last year, Colorado Springs has asked the Lower Ark to hold off on filing the suit, and with Suthers’ election, the district has returned to a wait-and-see mode.
Pifher presented documentation that Suthers supports a 10-year program to fully fund stormwater control and permitting at $19 million annually in his budget request to City Council. Council made a similar proposal last year that was shot down by the former mayor, Steve Bach.
The upcoming vote on a sales tax to fund street repairs will not affect stormwater funding, Pifher claimed.
“They’re two separate issues,” he said.
However, Americans for Prosperity, a group funded by the billionaire Koch Brothers, is challenging that position, saying that some of the bonds being eyed for flood control could be used for streets.
Colorado Springs is working with the EPA and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on the best places to spend the money. It also intends to start up SDS early next year, which would release $50 million in flood control payments over five years to the Fountain Creek district, Pifher noted.