SDS: “It seems to me the EIS is based on bad information” — Jay Winner

Last section of pipe for Southern Delivery System photo via The Colorado Springs Gazette
Last section of pipe for Southern Delivery System photo via The Colorado Springs Gazette

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Plans for a federal lawsuit against Colorado Springs over Clean Water Act violations are being shelved until state and federal agencies show how stormwater violations will be handled.

But the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District still intends to be active and urge the city and county of Pueblo to join in assuring that Colorado Springs controls stormwater pollution of Fountain Creek, possibly by blocking the startup of the Southern Delivery System — the $841 million water pipeline scheduled to go online next year.

“We can’t sue, because both the state and federal government are taking enforcement action,” attorney Peter Nichols told the Lower Ark board Tuesday in a work session. “They’re not going to go away. This is not going to be a slap on the wrist.”

The Environmental Protection Agency last month revealed Colorado Springs is in violation of its state permit to discharge stormwater into Fountain Creek. The EPA said Colorado Springs is not spending enough or enforcing its own policies when it comes to stormwater after an audit showed the city made no progress in a two-year period.

“It may be a coincidence, but the EPA did an audit and found everything we found and more. They have more resources,” Nichols said. “When you look at the appendices (to the audit), there’s some egregious [stuff] in there.”

Most likely, that will lead to a federal court case with compliance from Colorado Springs or the possibility of daily fines of up to $37,500 for each violation. It’s unusual for a city to be cited, said Nichols, who was once director of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission, which enforces permits.

“There are aggressive and tight requirements of what a city has to do,” Nichols said. “The penalties are held in abeyance so long as the violator complies with them.”

Nichols provides a memorandum showing similarities between the Lower Ark’s findings, compiled over the past five years, and the EPA audit, which include lack of funding, maintenance and enforcement of basic stormwater measures.

“We were a voice in the wilderness several years ago, but when we filed an intent to sue, the EPA paid attention,” Nichols said.

“So we care about it, but the city and county of Pueblo don’t?” asked Lower Ark board Chairman Lynden Gill.

One of the provisions of Pueblo County’s 1041 agreement in 2009 with Colorado Springs for SDS requires compliance with all county, state and federal regulations. It’s also one of the provisions in a 2004 intergovernmental agreement (Article VI, No. 8) among Pueblo, Colorado Springs and the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

General Manager Jay Winner pointed out that the district’s criticism has fallen on deaf ears with federal agencies related to SDS as well.

Those include the Bureau of the Reclamation, which approved the use of Lake Pueblo for SDS. Winner wants to reopen the federal process, which was mostly completed prior to abolishment of the stormwater enterprise by Colorado Springs City Council in late 2009.

Reclamation approved a contract for SDS in 2010, even after objections were raised that there was no stormwater enterprise. The only remedy suggested in the documents related to the contract, such as the environmental impact statement, is a vague “adoptive management plan” that is supposed to kick in when violations for things such as water quality violations occur.

“We’ve seen these happening for a long time,” Winner said. “It seems to me the EIS is based on bad information.”

Nichols added the district also can remain involved in questioning whether the violations cited by the EPA could aƒect the Clean Water Act Section 401 and 404 federal permits issued for SDS.

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