#ColoradoSprings councillors approve @CSUtilities 2019 budget

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

From KOAA (Tyler Dumas):

Tuesday, the Colorado Springs City Council unanimously approved the 2019 budget and rates for Colorado Springs Utilities customers.

The city said local water and wastewater systems are old and in need of ongoing repair and refurbishment.

According to the city, the typical residential wastewater customer will see an increase of about $0.88 per month. The city said this increase, the first since 2010, is largely due to inflationary costs…

Typical residential water customers will experience a monthly increase of $3.80, according to the city. This funding supports a “significant” upgrade to the Phillip H. Tollefson Water Treatment plan, as well as work to repair water mains, according to the city.

The city also said that most commercial and industrial customers will also experience increases to base rates for wastewater and water services.

Springs Utilities has an online bill calculator available to see how these changes will affect individuals and commercial customers. An Understanding Your Bill video is also available to assist customers.

U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch wrote that he found “a pattern of the city tolerating delays in correcting the problems reported” — The Colorado Springs Gazette

Fountain Creek flooding 1999 via the CWCB

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Conrad Swanson):

U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch heard the case in early September in a trial that lasted for more than a week. He issued his findings Friday afternoon.

Matsch ruled that the city violated its federal stormwater permit at Indigo Ranch North, a development at Stetson Ridge; Star Ranch, a luxury homes community on the city’s southwest side; and MorningStar at Bear Creek, a senior living center.

Matsch, who has yet to rule on other allegations against the city, did not say whether the city will face penalties for the violations…

In his ruling, Matsch wrote that city officials waived best stormwater management practices at Indigo Ranch North without sufficient justification. City officials also did not adequately oversee construction at the Star Ranch development to ensure compliance with stormwater requirements.

The city was obligated under those stormwater rules to reduce the amount of pollutants discharged from sites, which can erode stream banks, degrade water quality and harm downstream communities.

Stormwater from all three sites discharged into either Sand Creek or Fountain Creek farther downstream.

Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas District cited increased E. coli levels, erosion and flooding as a result of Colorado Springs’ failure to properly corral stormwater.

City officials approved the design and installation of a detention basin at MorningStar that did not meet drainage requirements set in 2002, Matsch wrote. They also failed to ensure “adequate long-term operation and maintenance” of that basin…

Matsch wrote that he found “a pattern of the city tolerating delays in correcting the problems reported.”

#ColoradoSprings Sand Creek stormwater project finished

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

From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

The city announced completion of the project on Oct. 22, noting it’s one of 71 projects the city agreed to complete under a 20-year, $460-million agreement with Pueblo County. Since that deal, inked in 2016, the city has completed six projects, says city spokesperson Vanessa Zink via email.

Check out the entire list here

The work on Sand Creek took 10 months and spanned a half mile, the city said in a release. Crews filled and reshaped the creek, installed grouted boulder drop structures to step the creek down and rebuilt the natural habitat along the creek. “The project raised the bottom of Sand Creek and regraded the banks back to a stable slope to prevent erosion and provide flood protection for up to a 100-year storm event through the half-mile improved section that will ultimately improve water quality for downstream communities,” the release said.

Funding for the project broke down this way: $3.9 million from a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant; $600,000 from the state and $1.5 million from the city.

#Drought news: “We need a winter, we need a wet winter” — Larry Bailey

West Drought Monitor October 2, 2018.

From KOAA.com (Bill Folsom):

In Huerfano County, Colorado. Rivers, streams and reservoirs are also low. Some living in rural areas fear it will not be long before they have no near-by access to water.

There are homes in the area without hook-ups to city water infrastructure. The solution is tanks on trucks and trailers. People pull up, punch in a code and fill tanks with hundreds of gallons of water. In the town of Walsenburg city leaders are cracking down on who can get water from the town water haul station. Kancilia is not happy with fees raised last year and the tighter restrictions. “They give the marijuana people all the water they want, but people that have houses and kids and going to school they want to cut them off if they’re more than ten miles out of town.” City leaders say they are abiding by rules dictated by the city’s water rights. Water is for people within the town’s zip code or who live within10 miles of the city’s boundary.

Enforcement of water rules is likely part of growing drought concerns. Reservoirs supplying water to Walsenburg are low. It is the same for reservoirs holding water for the town of La Veta. The mayor of La Veta, Doug Brgoch is also the Colorado Water Commissioner for the region. “What we’ve got to really realize here is that this area of Colorado hasn’t received a significant amount of moisture, wide spread moisture since May of last year, 2017.” It is pushing 18 months of little to no snow or rain.

Brgoch has 30 years experience in this region and says there’s no doubt it is why wells are going dry. “It’s a bad, bad situation.” Many make the mistake of thinking their well water comes from an aquifer. He says there is not an aquifer for most of Huerfano County. Instead underground water is from rivulets. They are the underground equivalent of a stream.

They are hard to tap and so narrow they are rarely shared with other wells. “It’s water that’s generated in mountains, gathered at higher elevations that are seeping into the ground, traveling rather rapidly through the ground,” said Brgoch.

The Cucharas River through La Veta is running at just two cubic feet a second. More than low, it is nearly dry. Reservoir storage is best at two to three years of available water. In La Veta it is at one year. “Those numbers are probably at an all time low. They’re as low as I’ve ever seen them in the last 30 years,” said Brgoch.

The town of La Veta is on restrictions. Walsenburg is getting tougher about rules. Town leaders have an obligation within their borders to make sure there is water for homes, business, fire protection and sewer systems. “There’s going to come a time when they’re just going to have to say to all external customers that we can no longer service you until times get better,” said Brgoch. It means people in unincorporated parts of the county will have few options for water.

It is a tough situation. Local resident, Larry Bailey knows what caused the problem and he knows the solution. He closely monitors snow and rainfall. “I got 22 inches of snow. I keep track of it and usually we’ll get 100 inches. I’m hoping we’ll get 150 inches.” Brgoch agrees, “We need a winter, we need a wet winter.” It is a resolution no one can predict or control.

Class action lawsuit filed against PFAS chemical producers

Photo via USAF Air Combat Command

From The Intercept (Sharon Lerner):

A class action lawsuit against 3M, DuPont, and Chemours was filed this week on behalf of everyone in the United States who has been exposed to PFAS chemicals. The suit was brought by Kevin Hardwick, an Ohio firefighter, but “seeks relief on behalf of a nationwide class of everyone in the United States who has a detectable level of PFAS chemicals in their blood.” Hardwick is represented by attorney Robert Bilott, who successfully sued DuPont on behalf of people in West Virginia and Ohio who had been exposed to PFOA from a plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

In addition to 3M, DuPont, and its spinoff, Chemours, the suit names eight other companies that produce the toxic chemicals, which are used to make firefighting foam, nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, and many other products. While much of the litigation around PFAS has focused on PFOA and PFOS, this suit targets the entire class of PFAS chemicals, including “the newer ‘replacement’ chemicals, such as GenX.”

Rather than suing for cash penalties, the suit seeks to force the companies to create an independent panel of scientists “tasked with thoroughly studying and confirming the health effects that can be caused by contamination of human blood with multiple PFAS materials.” Such a panel would parallel the C8 Science Panel, which was created by the earlier class action litigation in West Virginia. That panel, overseen by epidemiologists approved by lawyers from both sides in the suit, found six diseases to be linked with PFOA exposure, including testicular cancer and kidney cancer.

“With multiple PFAS chemicals now contaminating the blood of people all over this country, it should be possible to build upon and expand the C8 Science Panel model to encompass a comprehensive, nationwide investigation of the impact of multiple PFAS chemicals,” Bilott said in a press release.

Critically, the settlement creating the C8 Science Panel stipulated that DuPont was unable to contest the links found by the C8 Science Panel in court, which helped lead to multiple verdicts in which the company was held liable. To date, DuPont has paid more than $1 billion in penalties as a result of the earlier PFOA litigation. The primary goal of the new lawsuit is the creation of a national study that would be similarly binding.

“The hope is it would go a long way to resolving the PFAS crisis by providing scientific answers that everybody involved would commit to,” said Bilott in an interview. “Otherwise there’s the potential for endless litigation and fighting over the meaning of the science.”

#Drought news: Reservoirs in S. #Colorado have dropped precipitously over the summer

West Drought Monitor September 25, 2018.

From KOAA.com (Andy Koan):

The latest drought monitor released Thursday shows more than 85 percent of the State of Colorado is under unusually dry conditions. The worst affected areas are the 20 counties in the southwest corner of the state where all or parts of each county is experiencing exceptional drought.

An example of the impact can be seen in Custer County at the Deweese Reservoir. Large areas of dry cracked mud from what used to be lake bed now encircle the remaining water stored here…

The dam and the water are privately owned. It’s managed by the Deweese Dye Ditch Company in Canon City. The business began over a century ago to provide fresh water from Grape Creek to agricultural customers in Fremont County.

A dry weather pattern over the Rockies this spring melted the mountain snowpack earlier than usual. That early runoff, combined with prolonged periods of hot dry weather in late summer, have put the area under extreme drought…

The lake won’t go completely dry. Years ago, the Colorado Game and Fish Department bought a 500-acre-foot conservation pool here. Colorado Parks and Wildlife now keeps the lake stocked with fish.

Deweese’s Winter Water Storage [decree] allows them to close the headgate and begin storing water again on November 15.

From The Albuquerque Journal (Maddie Hayden):

The Rio Grande is again looking mighty puny where it crosses through Albuquerque as persistent drought continues to afflict the Southwest.

Flows on Thursday afternoon were at 133 cubic feet per second, below the historical Sept. 27 average of 410 cubic feet per second.

But water groups around the state have pulled together to keep it flowing, at least until the end of the water year…

John Fleck, director of the University of New Mexico’s Water Resources Program, said natural flows of the Rio Grande dried up in July, and the only reason it’s still flowing is due to water from the San Juan-Chama program, which allows for the transport of Colorado River Basin water to supplement the Rio Grande.

“It’s a reminder of how important this project is for New Mexico’s water supply,” Fleck said.

The Rio Grande is in dire straits throughout its run from Colorado through New Mexico, Fleck said.

Levels at Embudo, in north-central New Mexico, have reached record lows this year.

In south-central New Mexico, near Truth or Consequences, the Elephant Butte Reservoir is at just 3 percent capacity.

The Animas River at Farmington, an area in exceptional drought, is just above 0 flow — the lowest level in the area station’s history…

Frey said this year’s die-offs due to low water levels have occurred in the Chama, Brazos, Mora and Pecos rivers as well as various lakes and ponds around the state.

During a conference call Tuesday on drought conditions in New Mexico, Royce Fontenot, a senior hydrologist with the National Weather Service, said precipitation has helped ease some drought on the eastern side of the state since last month.

But just .22 percent of the state is drought-free. The exceptional drought area in the northwest corner of the state showed a little growth, with over 15 percent of the state now in the worst class of drought.

With most of the state’s reservoirs pushed to their limits to cover damage done by last winter’s dismal snowpack, another bad snow year would leave water users without a fallback next year, Gensler said.

“I was hoping we wouldn’t be going into winter like this, but I think this is where we’re going to start winter,” Fontenot said.

Fontenot said there’s a 65 to 70 percent chance of an El Niño weather pattern moving in during the coming months, which typically brings higher temperatures and more snow.

But even if El Niño does arrive, it isn’t certain which areas it will affect and how much precipitation it’ll bring.

“It’s not a blanket term anymore,” said Chris Romero, a snow survey hydrological technician with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Albuquerque. “We had an El Niño forecast here two years ago and it was great for about two months until the jet stream moved farther north and winter kind of turned off.”

Fountain Creek “Creek Week” September 29 through October 7, 2018

UCCS Clean the Stream Team at the 2015 Creek Week. Photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District.

Click here for all the inside skinny and register:

Make some memories and make a difference!
3,000 Fountain Creek Watershed residents will come together from
Saturday, Sept. 29th – Sunday, Oct. 7th
from Monument to Pueblo,
and everywhere in between to clean our watershed!

View the list of events and clean-ups by clicking here.