“The history of #Colorado Springs is a history of bold and ambitious water projects” — Mayor John Suthers

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Usually a water treatment plant just sits off to the side of a city, pumping along with little notice unless something goes wrong.

But more than 300 people gathered Friday at the Edward W. Bailey treatment plant on Colorado Springs’ east side to dedicate the Southern Delivery System.

A choir belted out “God Bless America” with its inspiration, Pikes Peak, as a backdrop. People who had worked on the project over its more than 20-year history reconnected. At the end, there was a grand toast with — what else? — a jigger of water from keepsake mini-jugs.

“The history of Colorado Springs is a history of bold and ambitious water projects,” Mayor John Suthers told the crowd. “Without those bold and ambitious water projects, Colorado Springs would be a city of only 20,000 or 30,000.”

Instead it has grown to 450,000, and with SDS makes it possible for the city to get bigger.

That made most of the people at the ceremony happy. Suthers and others praised the regional benefits of SDS, urging cooperation in areas such as economic development and transportation.

“Water has been our community’s greatest challenge and its greatest resource,” said Jerry Forte, CEO of Colorado Springs Utilities. “Nothing happens without water.”

Forte detailed the history of the $825 million water pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs, explaining that planning dates back to 1996, when the idea crystallized in the Colorado Springs Water Plan. It was one of four alternatives in the document, but the only one that made it to the finish line.

It was a tortured run, however, filled with disputes in Lake, Chaffee, Fremont, Pueblo and Crowley counties. Forte nodded at the entanglements only briefly.

“There were lots of opportunity to build character and relationships,” he deadpanned as the crowd started chuckling.

Instead, he concentrated on the accomplishments that led to SDS, recognizing former officials such as Lionel Rivera, who was mayor of Colorado Springs when a deal was made in 2004 on Arkansas River flows through Pueblo. Seated next to Rivera was Randy Thurston, who pushed his fellow members on Pueblo City Council to approve the agreement. He enumerated the benefits of SDS to Colorado Springs’ partners Fountain, Security and Pueblo West.

Forte also lamented that SDS required 470 permits, which was a good set-up line for Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who joked: “How many of you thought SDS stood for Still Doing Studies.”

On a serious note, Gardner praised the collaboration it took to build SDS, saying more projects like it are needed, citing their importance in Colorado’s Water Plan.

“If we do not invest in water projects, Colorado will see a shortfall of 500,000 acre-feet per year,” Gardner said. “That’s five times the supply of Colorado Springs.”

While the event maintained a festive spirit, some from Pueblo County who attended were more low-key in their assessment of SDS.

“Technologically, it’s an amazing accomplishment,” said Bill Alt, whose property on Fountain Creek is being destroyed because of increased flows from the north. “I’m not sure all the cooperation they were talking about is there. I’d have to say the stormwater agreement probably benefit everyone.”

Jane Rhodes, who also owns land on Fountain Creek, said there are still challenges ahead in dealing with Fountain Creek flooding.

“The first of the $50 million payments will come, and one of those projects is on my land,” Rhodes said. “I’m glad SDS is done so the projects can get started.”

From 9News.com (Maya Rodriquez):

Fifty million gallons: it’s the amount of water that will be flowing through a new water system every day.

It’s called the Southern Delivery System, or SDS. It is the largest water system built in the western U.S. so far in the 21st century.

The planning for it began 20 years ago. After nearly a billion dollars and more than 470 permits later, it’s now a reality in Colorado Springs.

“In the whole western United States, water is probably the most precious commodity that we have and all of us need to do what we can to steward water,” Colorado Springs Utilities CEO Jerry Forte said.

That is where the system comes in – it is designed to treat water efficiently, as more and more people move to southern Colorado.

“This is all the piping that goes put to the finished water tank to be delivered to the customer,” said Operations Superintendent Chad Sell. “One of the most state of the art facilities in Colorado.”

The system serves more than a half million people in Colorado Springs, parts of Pueblo and the communities of Fountain and Security. Within 50 years, though, 900,000 people are expected to get their water from SDS.

“I think the long-term vision that put this in place means we’re good for the next 50 years,” said Colorado Springs Utilities Board Chair Andy Pico. “We have water. Water in the West is critical.”

Even as they celebrate the opening of the SDS as it stands now, they’re already planning for a second phase that will eventually expand it to handle more water for more people.

Colorado Springs officials say the SDS project did not receive any state or federal dollars. The 830-million dollar project, which also came in more than $100 million under budget, is being funded through bonds and will be paid for by its water customers of today and the next 30 years.

From KRDO.com (Angelica Lombardi):

After more than 20 years of planning and construction, Colorado Springs Utilities dedicated the historic Southern Delivery System water project at the Edward W. Bailey water treatment plant Friday morning.

On April 28, history flowed out of this historic Southern Delivery System for the first time.

It took decades of planning and six years of construction and Friday morning the hard work was recognized.

“I’ve been involved in this project for 14-plus years. To see it complete with excellence and all the people who contributed. I was overwhelmed,” said Jerry Forte, CEO of Colorado Springs Utilities…

“It’s amazing for Colorado Springs and our partners. It means water for the future. We call Southern Delivery ‘water for generations’ and what that means is our children and grandchildren will be able to have water in Colorado Springs for 50, 60-plus years from now,” said Forte.

The water is pumped out of the Pueblo Reservoir and makes its way through 50 miles of pipeline going through three pump stations and ending at Colorado Springs…

It took more than 470 permits to finalize the project.

SDS Facts

  • The Water Treatment Plant has approximately 200 miles of electrical wires and cables, enough to stretch from the Water Treatment Plant site nearly to the International Space Station or the Pueblo Reservoir four times.
  • The Water Treatment Plant used enough rebar to fill 54, 50-foot rail cars or a train half-a-mile
  • If the concrete masonry blocks used in construction of the Water Treatment Plant were stacked, they would be four-and-a-half times taller than Pikes Peak.
  • The raw water tank at the Water Treatment Plant has a capacity of 10 million gallons, enough to fill 200,000 bathtubs.
  • 5,401 truckloads of pipe to SDS projects
  • Net tons of steel used for pipe furnished was 37,810.
  • From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    Some 400 to 500 people gathered at the Edward W. Bailey Water Treatment Plant, 977 N. Marksheffel Road, Friday morning to dedicate the Southern Delivery System pipeline project.

    The project, 20 years in the making,d represents the service, safety, commitment and excellence brought to bear by hundreds, even thousands, of people, said Colorado Springs Utilities CEO Jerry Forte.

    He noted that the project adds another noteworthy item to Colorado Springs’ water history, which began in the late 1800s when city founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer built the El Paso County Canal from Fountain Creek on what is now 33rd Street, Forte said.

    SDS, he noted, will provide water for generations to come.

    SDS first appeared in the city’s water master plan in 1996 and was geared to supply water to the 20,000-acre Banning Lewis Ranch, which had been annexed into the city in 1988. Only a fraction of that property is built out, but SDS now is viewed as a crucial component of the city’s existing system to ensure redundancy. Most of the city’s water comes from transmountain systems built in the 1950s and 1980s. SDS brings water from Pueblo Reservoir.

    Although Rep. Doug Lamborn heralded the project for not requiring federal money, the Pueblo Dam and reservoir project was part of the Frying Pan-Arkansas project built in the 1960s and 1970s by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, along with a special district that collected property tax money in the region. SDS, obviously, wouldn’t have been possible without that reservoir on the Arkansas River.

    City Council President Merv Bennett demonstrated the span of time needed to plan and build SDS by noting 11 Councils have played key roles in the project. He recognized El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark, a former Council member, who he said laid the groundwork for relationships with Pueblo officials; former Mayor Lionel Rivera, who oversaw the project as both mayor and a Council member; Randy Thurston, former Pueblo City Council member; former Vice Mayor Larry Small, who now runs the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, which grew from SDS negotiations; and Margaret Radford, former Council member who now works for an SDS contractor, MWH Global.

    CSU Chair Andy Pico boasted that the project was originally envisioned to cause water rates to increase by 121 percent, but it has required increases to rates of only 52 percent. The $825 million project came in $160 million under budget.

    Mayor John Suthers also spoke. His role might have been one of the most pivotal, because he sorted out a mess created by his predecessor, Steve Bach, in terms of the city’s stormwater situation, which had become a nearly insurmountable barrier to the project.

    First, Suthers had to deal with federal and state clean-water regulators who have accused the city of failing to comply with the Clean Water Act for years before Suthers took office in June 2015. Those negotiations are ongoing. Second, Suthers had to find a quick solution to stormwater improvements to satisfy Pueblo County commissioners, who threatened to reopen the city’s SDS construction permit. (Bach opposed a ballot measure in 2014 that would have funded stormwater work.)

    Suthers finessed a deal in which the city agreed to spend $460 million in the next 20 years to upgrade and maintain the city’s drainage facilities. Pueblo officials accepted the deal, clearing the way for water to begin flowing through the SDS pipeline in late April, as scheduled. (Bach was invited to, but did not attend, Friday’s SDS dedication.)

    Suthers said the city would have remained a tourist town of 20,000 but for its water resources. “Our future is bright, and we are poised for continued success,” he said.

    In a surprise development, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., showed up and lauded the city for the project. “It can’t be said enough how important water infrastructure is to the state of Colorado,” he said. “It’s our past. It’s our present, and it’s our future. It’s my hope this [project] can be replicated throughout Colorado, because water will continue to drive our success.”

    Others who spoke included CSU’s Chief Water Officer Dan Higgins, and the project director since 2007, attorney John Fredell, who became the face of SDS in the past decade through contracting, negotiations with neighbors, legal wrangling and interviews with the media. About 470 permits were required for the project.

    As Forte said, “We never would have reached this point today without one person,” that being Fredell.

    When Fredell stepped to the dais, he received a standing ovation from a crowd that included elected officials, contractors, project partners, officials from surrounding towns and Pueblo, Utilities employees and citizens.

    Fredell, in turn, thanked Forte for his “trust and vision and leading every step of the way.”

    After the speeches, the crowd was invited to open gift boxes at each chair which contained a commemorative coin and a little glass of SDS water, used to toast the project.

    All that was left at the end of 75 minutes of speeches was to have a sip of SDS water. Photo via the Colorado Springs Independent.
    All that was left at the end of 75 minutes of speeches was to have a sip of SDS water. Photo via the Colorado Springs Independent.

    To take a trip back in time through the Coyote Gulch history of the Southern Delivery Click here and click here.

    Twin Lakes Tunnel closes, the Grottos erupts in whitewater

    The Roaring Fork River bounding down the Grottos on Thursday, June 16, 2016, after the Twin Lakes Tunnel was closed.
    The Roaring Fork River bounding down the Grottos on Thursday, June 16, 2016, after the Twin Lakes Tunnel was closed.

    By Brent Gardner-Smith, Aspen Journalism

    ASPEN – For the second time in two years the native flows to the upper Roaring Fork River have been restored as the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. has had to curtail its diversions and close the Twin Lakes Tunnel, which since June 6 had been moving 600-plus cubic feet per second of water under the Continental Divide.

    After the tunnel was closed Thursday afternoon and the upper Roaring Fork River had regained the natural flow of its two biggest tributaries – Lost Man and Lincoln creeks – the river bounded down the slick granite in the Grottos area and erupted in a frenzy of churning whitewater.

    The Grottos on June 13, and on June 16

    The Roaring Fork River, Grottos, on Monday morning, June 13, 2016.
    The Roaring Fork River, at the top of the Grottos section, on Monday morning, June 13, 2016, with the Twin Lakes Tunnel diverting over 600 cfs.
    Roaring Fork RIver, Grottos, at about 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 16, 2016, at the upper indicator rock.
    The Roaring Fork River, at the top of the Grottos section, at about 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 16, 2016, after the Twin Lakes Tunnel had closed.

    Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. began diverting the headwaters of the Roaring Fork in earnest this year in late May. It ramped up diversions through the Twin Lakes Tunnel to above 600 cfs on June 6 and kept them in the 610 cfs to 620 cfs range until Tuesday, June 14, when the diversions in the tunnel were reduced by about half.

    By Wednesday, flows in the tunnel were around 250 cfs and were turned down to a trickle of 4 cfs by Thursday afternoon.

    Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. first reduced the flow of water to the tunnel on Tuesday by letting the natural flow of Lost Man Creek run into the Roaring Fork River again, instead of diverting it to the entrance to the Twin Lakes Tunnel, which begins at Grizzly Reservoir.

    The flows of Lost Man Creek added about 250 cfs into the main stem of the upper Fork as it ran past Lost Man campground.

    Flows in the main stem of the Roaring Fork River on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 below the diversion dam on the upper Roaring Fork. The flows, shown heading toward Aspen, include about 250 cfs from  Lost Man Creek and  the portion of the main stem of the Fork that was previously being diverted.
    Flows in the main stem of the Roaring Fork River on Tuesday, June 14, 2016, below the diversion dam on the upper Roaring Fork. The flows, shown heading toward Aspen, include about 250 cfs from Lost Man Creek and the portion of the main stem of the Fork that was previously being diverted.

    Then on Thursday afternoon, Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. took the next step and closed the tunnel. That sent another 200 cfs or so down lower Lincoln Creek, which runs into the Fork just above the Grottos.

    Just after 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Lincoln Creek quickly went from a clear and docile stream that could be easily walked across to a turbid river flowing strong enough to lift a man off his feet.

    Lincoln Creek, before and after

    Lincoln Creek, before the Twin Lakes Tunnel was closed on June 16, 2016.
    Lincoln Creek, at about 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 16, 2016, before the freshly turned out water from Lincoln, New York, Brooklyn, and Tabor creeks came rushing downstream instead of being diverted through the Twin Lakes Tunnel.
    Lincoln Creek, after 5: 30 p.m. on Thursday, June 16, 2016, after the Twin Lakes Tunnel was closed. A surge of turbid pushy water came down Lincoln Creek and reached the Fork about 5:30 p.m. on June 16.
    Lincoln Creek, around 5: 30 p.m. on Thursday, June 16, 2016, after the Twin Lakes Tunnel was closed. Minutes earlier the stream could be easily walked across, but the increased flow above was enough to lift a man off his feet while crossing.

    The 4-mile long Twin Lakes Tunnel is now expected to remain closed for two to three weeks and the recent hot weather may keep the water rising in the Fork as the last of the high elevation snowpack comes off.

    Rising Stillwater

    On Friday, a cold and swiftly moving Roaring Fork had risen above its banks in portions of the North Star Nature Preserve, flooding some areas but not to the extent of the high water in June 2015.

    Last year on June 18 the Fork reached a peak flow of 1,680 cfs, as recorded by the gauge “Roaring Fork River Near Aspen, CO,” located at Stillwater Drive just east of Aspen proper.

    Yesterday at 4:30 p.m., as the tunnel was closed, the Fork at Stillwater was flowing at 597 cfs.

    But by midnight, with the strong flow from Lincoln Creek added, the Fork had climbed to 817 cfs.

    It then hit a high of 927 cfs at 7:45 a.m. on Friday morning, before falling back to 857 cfs by 2:30 p.m. Friday.

    The riverside cabin in the Stillwater section of the Roaring Fork did not appear to be flooded on Friday, June 17, 2016, but the river was lapping the edge of the porch. One year earlier the river had made itself at home and put about a foot of water in the cabin.
    The riverside cabin in the Stillwater section of the Roaring Fork did not appear to be flooded on Friday, June 17, 2016, but the river was lapping the edge of the porch. One year earlier the river had made itself at home and put about a foot of water in the cabin.

    By midday Friday, the swelling river was licking the porch of a small cabin on the banks of the Fork in the Stillwater section, but unlike last year, it had not yet flooded the inside of the cabin and a nearby art studio.

    The river, however, had risen high enough to flood portions of the North Star Nature Preserve and other land along the river. So far, the high water had not produced flooding in scale with the dramatic size of last year’s “Lake North Star.”

    Water in the Stillwater section of the Roaring Fork River swelled over the river's banks on Friday after the Twin Lakes Tunnel was closed for two-to-three weeks on Thursday. The river hit 927 cfs early Friday morning. Last year on June 18 it hit 1,680 cfs.
    Water in the Stillwater section of the Roaring Fork River swelled over the river’s banks on Friday after the Twin Lakes Tunnel was closed for two to three weeks on Thursday. The river hit 927 cfs early Friday morning. Last year on June 18 it hit 1,680 cfs.

    Turn Tunnel Off

    The Twin Lakes Tunnel is the key component of the Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion System, which was constructed in the 1930s and is owned and operated by Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co.

    Notably, the company does not own and operate Twin Lakes Reservoir, as it sold the reservoir on the east side of Independence Pass to the Bureau of Reclamation and the reservoir is now managed as part of the Fry-Ark project.

    The Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., did, however, retain the right to store 54,452 acre-feet in Twin Lakes Reservoir, which can hold a total of 147,500 acre-feet, or about a third again more than Ruedi Reservoir.

    But under its water rights, after Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. reaches its storage allotment in Twin Lakes Reservoir as it did this week, it has to stop diverting if the Colorado Canal can still divert 756 cfs directly from the lower Arkansas River.

    It’s rare that two of the constraints in the water rights held by Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. overlap and it has to stop diverting West Slope water, but it happened last year and again this year.

    And both times were a reflection of the high levels of water in the lower Arkansas River basin.

    If flows in the lower Arkansas drop, then the Colorado Canal will likely be called out by a senior diverter and Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. can again divert water from the headwaters of the upper Roaring Fork and send it directly to the canal.

    The Colorado Canal is near Ordway, CO, where Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. is based. Most of the shares in the company are owned by Front Range cities, which receive the majority of the water normally diverted from the upper Roaring Fork.

    Tunnel Diversion Graphics

    A graph showing the stair-step reduction in diversions through the Twin Lakes Tunnel between Tuesday, June 14 and Thursday, June 16, 2016.
    A graph showing the stair-step reduction in diversions through the Twin Lakes Tunnel between Tuesday, June 14, and Thursday, June 16, 2016.
    A graph showing the rate of diversions through the Twin Lakes Tunnel since early May. It shows the steady diversions above 600 cfs between June 6 and June 14, 2016.
    A graph showing the rate of diversions through the Twin Lakes Tunnel since early May. It shows the steady diversions above 600 cfs between June 6 and June 14, 2016.

    Grottos, Broad View

    Roaring Fork River, Grottos, on Monday morning June 13, 2016, with diversions into the Twin Lakes Tunnel at over 600 cfs. While impressive at this level, the whitewater frenzy that resulted after the tunnels were closed was far more intense.
    Roaring Fork River, Grottos, on Monday morning June 13, 2016, looking downstream, with diversions into the Twin Lakes Tunnel at over 600 cfs. While impressive at this level, the whitewater frenzy that resulted after the tunnels were closed was far more intense.
    Roaring Fork River, Grottos, at 5 p.m. Thursday, June 16, 2016, before flows from Lincoln Creek came into the Fork.
    Roaring Fork River, Grottos, at 5 p.m. Thursday, June 16, 2016, looking upstream, before flows from Lincoln Creek came into the Fork.
    The Fork, in frenzy, through the Grottos, on 6.16.16.
    The Fork, in frenzy, through the Grottos on June 16, 2016.

    Grottos, Middle Indicator Rock

    Roaring Fork River, Grottos, at about 10 a.m. on Monday, June 13, 2016.
    Roaring Fork River, Grottos, at about 10 a.m. on Monday, June 13, 2016. A view of the middle indicator rock.
    Roaring Fork River, Grottos, at about 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 16, 2016, before the flow of Lincoln Creek was added to the Fork.
    Roaring Fork River, Grottos, at about 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 16, 2016, before the flow of Lincoln Creek was added to the Fork. View of the middle indicator rock.
    The Roaring Fork River, through the Grottos, late on Thursday, June 16, 2016, after the Twin Lakes Tunnel had been closed.
    The Roaring Fork River, through the Grottos, late on Thursday, June 16, 2016, after the Twin Lakes Tunnel had been closed. A view of the middle indicator rock.

    Grottos, Lower Indicator Rock

    Roaring Fork River, Grottos, on Monday morning June 13, 2016, before flows from either Lost Man Creek or Lincoln Creek were added to Fork and the Twin Lakes Tunnel was diverting about 600 cfs.
    Roaring Fork River, Grottos, on Monday morning June 13, 2016, before flows from either Lost Man Creek or Lincoln Creek were added to the Roaring Fork and the Twin Lakes Tunnel was diverting about 600 cfs. Lower indicator rock.
    Roaring Fork River, Grottos, at 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 16, 2016, before flows from Lincoln Creek were added to the Fork.
    Roaring Fork River, Grottos, at 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 16, 2016, before flows from Lincoln Creek were added to the Fork. Lower indicator rock.
    Roaring Fork River, Grottos, about 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 16, 2016, after flow from Lincoln Creek was added to the Fork.
    Roaring Fork River, Grottos, about 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 16, 2016, after flow from Lincoln Creek was added to the Roaring Fork. Lower indicator rock.

    Lincoln Creek, log indicator

    Lincoln Creek, just above its confluence with the Roaring Fork River, minutes before a surge of about 350s cfs came down Lincoln Creek and reached this location,.  Taken about 5:20 p.m. on Thursday, June 16, 2016.
    Lincoln Creek, just above its confluence with the Roaring Fork River, minutes before a surge of about 350 cfs came down Lincoln Creek and reached this location. Photo taken about 5:20 p.m. on Thursday, June 16, 2016.
    Lincoln Creek, just above the confluence with the Roaring Fork, minutes after a surge of 350 cfs swept through the location after being turned out when the Twin Lakes Tunnel was closed. Shortly after 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 16, 2016.
    Lincoln Creek, just above the confluence with the Roaring Fork, minutes after a surge of 350 cfs swept through the location after being turned out when the Twin Lakes Tunnel was closed. Shortly after 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 16, 2016.