Aspen voters turn down Woody Creek land acquisition bonding

A map provided by the city of Aspen showing the two parcels in Woody Creek it has under contract. The city is investigating the possibility of building a reservoir on the site, as well as looking at the possibility of a reservoir in the neighboring Elam gravel pit.

From The Aspen Times:

Aspen voters denied the city permission Tuesday to use $5.5 million in general obligation bonds to buy a piece of land in Woody Creek that would potentially be converted into a reservoir for future water storage.

Unofficial results showed the measure was decided by a 53.4 percent to 46.6 percentage margin.

The outcome of the vote won’t preclude the city from acquiring a 58-acre parcel of land from Woody Creek Development Co. The city has had the property under contract to buy for $2.65 million.

The city had said that even without voter approval, it would still buy the property possibly by using certificates of participation to finance the deal or through cash and internal financing.

The city’s pending purchase of the land was in response to public outcry over statements it had made in previous water court filings that it could dam both Maroon and Castle creeks for future water supply.

The city has various reservoir options for the Woody Creek land, as Aspen Journalism reported in October that the largest one would span 8,000 acre-feet at a cost of $81 million, with a 5,000-foot-long dam, based on a study by Longmont-based engineering firm Deere and Ault.

The actual development of the reservoir is not in the city’s immediate future, Aspen Journalism reported.

“Developing water storage is an effort that will take time to fully implement, as it involves property acquisition, studies, planning, permitting, engineering and design before any construction can begin,” Margaret Medellin, a utilities portfolio manager in the city’s water department, was quoted as saying. “This is not an overnight process. Securing the property is the first step.”

Archuleta County voters turn down Ballot Issue 5A — San Juan Headwaters Project

Credit The Pagosa Daily Post.

From The Pagosa Sun (Randi Pierce):

Ballot Issue 5A, the San Juan Water Conservancy District’s (SJWCD) request for an increase to 1 mill to help with the land acquisition for and support the San Juan River Headwaters Project reservoir, was soundly defeated Tuesday, with 75.44 percent of voters against the measure (2,697 votes).

A total of 878 voters, or 24.56 per- cent, were in favor of the measure.

SJWCD board chair Rod Proffitt indicated Wednesday morning the district knew it would be an uphill battle and will now obtain feedback on the loss at the polls and “proceed accordingly.”

“The District was disappointed in the results, but we knew even when we negotiated the terms of the $2 Million loan with CWCB [the Colo- rado Water Conservation Board] that it would be a difficult challenge we might have to put in front of the vot- ers more than once,” Proffitt wrote in an email to SUN staff.

Proffitt added, “The facts have not changed. In fact, the need for this water storage project is becoming more apparent. CWCB and PAWSD agree this community may face a serious demand supply gap as early as 2024. The Growing Water Smart Group that formed this past summer and committed to endorsing a 3 Mile Plan and a Watershed Management Plan as good ways to integrated better land use Planning and wise water conservation also determined the best, most important thing we can do is arrive at a set of data and popula- tions projections we can agree on by consensus, and then use for planning purposes by the various entities responsible for infrastruc- ture needs is (sic) the community.”

“This is a fine example of the new relationship between Pueblo and Colorado Springs” — Terry Hart

The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas):

Pueblo County officials said Wednesday that they are excited about Colorado Springs voters approving a ballot measure securing $17 million in annual stormwater fees to be used exclusively for stormwater drainage and flood control projects.

“This is a fine example of the new relationship between Pueblo and Colorado Springs. I think it’s wonderful to have two communities rolling up their sleeves to tackle problems the two communities share,” Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart said.

The money coming from the new ballot measure will be used to fund projects, including the list of 71 projects identified in the intergovernmental agreement between Pueblo County and Colorado Springs regarding the permit for the Southern Delivery System. SDS is the large pipeline that transfers water from the Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs…

The IGA commits the Front Range city and its utilities department to pay $460 million for storm water infrastructure, maintenance and education programs over the next two decades.

“As evidenced by the incredible progress that has been made in our stormwater program over the past two years, the city of Colorado Springs is committed to operating an outstanding stormwater program,” said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers.

“Our commitment, and the commitment of our citizens, is evident in passage of Ballot 2A to provide a dedicated funding source for stormwater infrastructure, operations and maintenance.”

Suthers said this commitment will continue as the city of Colorado Springs and Colorado Springs Utilities invest $460 million over the next two decades to stormwater operations that will improve the city’s ability to mitigate flooding and preserve water quality while meeting the requirements of its MS4 Permit.

Broomfield: Question 301 aims to prioritize health and safety for oil and gas operations

Drilling rig and production pad near Erie school via WaterDefense.org

From The Denver Post (John Aguilar):

Voters on Tuesday passed a controversial ballot issue that gives Broomfield more local oversight of oil and gas operations in the city, a move that probably will invite a legal challenge from Colorado’s large energy sector.

According to a late-night vote tally in the mail-in election that accounts for most of the ballots cast in the city, the yes vote for Question 301 was comfortably ahead of the no vote by a margin of 57.5 percent to 42.5 percent…

Jennifer Dulles, a Broomfield resident who supports 301, attended a watch party at Brothers BBQ in Broomfield…

As to the question of whether the industry would sue, Dulles said, “The concept that an industry would need to sue the people over a ballot initiative that is about health and safety is incredulous.”

[…]

Question 301 has been a highly contentious topic in Broomfield and is perhaps one of the most fought-over issues on a Colorado ballot in 2017. The measure attracted nearly $400,000 from groups either pushing it or trying to quash it.

Of that amount, the energy extraction industry put in the lion’s share — nearly $345,000 — in both monetary and in-kind contributions to defeat 301.

“It is in violation of state law as upheld by the state Supreme Court,” said Don Beezley, a “No on 301” committee member. “The result will be Broomfield spending tens of thousands of dollars or more defending lawsuits, most likely from both the state of Colorado and the operators, with apparently 100 percent likelihood of losing said suits.”

[…]

Past efforts by cities — including Fort Collins, Broomfield and Lafayette — to temporarily ban oil and gas drilling have met defeat in court. In May 2016, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that municipally imposed fracking bans are illegal because state power to regulate the industry trumps local efforts to do so.

While 301 doesn’t propose an oil and gas ban, its potential to restrict energy extraction activities doesn’t sit well with the industry. Last month, two industry groups sued Thornton weeks after the city passed oil and gas regulations that the industry claims conflict with state law, characterizing the city’s new setback distances for wells and requirements on abandoned flowlines an overreach…

But the pro-301 side points to a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling from March, known as the Martinez decision, that stipulates the protection of public health and the environment is “a condition that must be fulfilled” by the state before oil and gas drilling can be done.

That’s essentially what the measure asked of Broomfield voters, said Judy Kelly, co-chair of the 301 Committee. The measure is an amendment to Broomfield’s home rule charter requiring protection of health, safety and the environment as preconditions for drilling inside city limits.

“It might be worth taking a step back to ask ourselves, ‘Why in the world would people be sued for simply stating that their city places health and safety as a first priority?’” Kelly asked. “If the industry is safe and can operate safely, this is a non-issue for them.”

#ColoradoSprings: Is Issue 2A a springboard to outsized government spending?

Colorado Springs with the Front Range in background. Photo credit Wikipedia.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Conrad Swanson):

While Mayor John Suthers touts stormwater fees as a route to financial stability for Colorado Springs, others see them as a symptom of the city’s insatiable appetite for cash.

Some worry the city will inevitably raise the fees, which appear on El Paso County’s November ballot as Issue 2A.

According to the ballot language, the city can raise the fees if ordered to do so by a judge, to come into compliance with state and federal laws or to abide by any intergovernmental agreements preceding June 1, 2016.

A high-profile lawsuit filed against the city by state and federal governments or an intergovernmental agreement the city entered into with Pueblo County last year are the two most likely causes of future fee increases.

Suthers argues that any increase from the agreement with Pueblo would be minimal and 2A is a proactive effort to mitigate high-dollar judgments against the city in the ongoing lawsuit.

If passed, the fees would charge homeowners $5 a month and nonresidential property owners $30 per acre each month. The fees would last 20 years and are expected to raise as much as $18 million a year for the city’s stormwater obligations, which currently are met using the general fund.

With a dedicated stormwater funding source in place, money freed in the general fund would be spent hiring new police officers and firefighters, Suthers said. If 2A passes, the city will be in good financial shape for the next two decades, he has said.

But Councilmen Bill Murray and Don Knight, who oppose 2A, are dubious.

Knight said the city’s wants will always be greater than the budget allows. The general fund has increased in recent years and the city can afford to continue paying for stormwater that way.

And Murray said new police officers and firefighters serve a “Trojan horse” and open the door for fee increases.

In April 2016, the city entered into a $460 million, 20-year agreement with Pueblo County to complete 71 stormwater projects. The city’s annual investments in those projects increase
every five years and average $20 million a year over the life of the agreement. The investments currently sit at $17 million a year.

If 2A passes and revenue hits the $18 million estimate in 2019, the first full year the fees will be in effect, the city can cover the $17 million investments. But in 2021 the city’s scheduled investments increase to $19 million a year, leaving a $1 million deficit.

Suthers said he expects growth to help cover the increases, but money from the general fund can also help.

#ColoradoSprings: Mayor Suthers on the stump for stormwater ballot issue (2A)

Colorado Springs with the Front Range in background. Photo credit Wikipedia.

From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

..Mayor John Suthers is the chief spokesperson for the 2A campaign in radio ads that began airing Oct. 3.

Rachel Beck, a Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC official who’s running the Invest COS campaign committee (aka the “vote yes” committee), reports the ads will continue until Election Day and that other strategies include flyers targeting likely voters and Google and Facebook digital ads. “It’s a pretty broad audience we’re communicating with,” Beck says.

With just 54 percent of likely voters supporting the measure, according to a poll conducted in early August, Invest COS hopes to move the needle to put the measure comfortably over the top. “Our polling showed that people have a high level of understanding of the issue,” Beck says, adding the campaign is focusing on explaining “that this is the right solution, what the components are and what they can expect to get in return if they support the measure with their vote.”

[…]

The measure, if approved, would require every household, including renters, to pay $5 a month on their water bill to fund stormwater; owners of nonresidential property would pay $30 per acre. Property owners of developed land larger than five acres would pay fees set by the city’s stormwater manager, based on the area of impervious surface on the land. The city itself would also pay the fee, which Suthers says in an interview would cost about $100,000 a year. The fees would be collected for 20 years.

Two seasoned political activists are working separately against the measure. Laura Carno, a political strategist who ran the campaign of the city’s first strong mayor, Steve Bach, in 2011, has set up a new campaign committee called Springstaxpayers.com. She says she’s raised less than $10,000 and plans a radio and digital campaign, plus TV if more money comes in. “The message will be that the city of Colorado Springs has plenty of money,” Carno says. “They just need to prioritize it.”

#ColoradoSprings: Ballot issue debate, October 17, 2017

Heavy rains inundate Sand Creek. Photo via the City of Colorado Springs and the Colorado Springs Independent.

From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

Two key ballot measures will be debated on Oct. 17 at a public forum at the MCI/Verizon Building, located at 2424 Garden of the Gods Road. The forum will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Mayor John Suthers will promote the city’s proposed stormwater fee. If 2A is approved, it would require every household to pay $5 a month on their water bill to fund stormwater projects, and owners of nonresidential property to pay $30 per acre per month. Property owners of developed land larger than five acres would pay fees set by the city’s stormwater manager, based on impervious surface.

Taking the “vote no” position will be political strategist Laura Carno, who’s mounting an opposition effort.