The Lake County Board of County Commissioners establish water enterprise

mountmassivegolfcoursegolfcolorado

From The Leadville Herald (Ryan Fitzmaurice):

The Lake County Board of County Commissioners officially established a water enterprise during a regular meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 3, allowing it to secure the county’s water deal with the Mount Massive Golf Course.

The two motions were pushed through Tuesday because it was Bruce Hix and Michael Bordogna’s last meeting as county commissioners, and there were worries about conflicts of interest related to the water enterprise for both incoming commissioners, Mark Glenn and Sarah Mudge.

The water enterprise serves as the legal mechanism from which the county can lease water to entities such as the golf course.

There are only two uses for which the county can lease water currently – to cover the evaporative loss of Hayden pond, and to help supply water the golf course.

Bordogna said the county expects there to be much greater use in the future due to further development in the county.

The county may return funds to the general fund from the enterprise, but may not take loans that are outside of current statutory loans to fund it.

The county will also be unable to levy taxes to create the water enterprise.

Pueblo West contracts for 6,000 acre-feet of storage in Lake Pueblo

Pueblo West
Pueblo West

From The Pueblo West View (Kristen M. White):

Pueblo West will have the right to store water in Pueblo Reservoir in the future, should the storage be needed, after the Metropolitan District agreed to enter into a subcontract with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District…

The master plan contract is between the Bureau of Reclamation and the water district, and Pueblo West now has a subcontract with water district for its storage rights.

The contract allows Pueblo West to begin paying for 10 acre feet, at the starting rate of $40.04 per acre foot of water, in 2017. But the contract gives Pueblo West the ability to store as much as 6,000 acre feet of water in the future should the storage ability be necessary.

Pueblo Dam hydropower plant should be online next year

Pueblo dam releases
Pueblo dam releases

From KOAA.com (Andy Koen):

The Pueblo Dam will soon be producing enough renewable energy to power 3,000 homes. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District plans to begin construction of the $19.5 million hydroelectric generating station later this year. The construction site will be located downstream form the Pueblo Dam River Outlet which was constructed to serve as the connection for the Colorado Springs Utilities Southern Delivery System.

“We’ll be using the water that’s flowing into the river again, we won’t be consuming any of that water,” explained Conservancy District spokesman Chris Woodka.

The District borrowed $17 million from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to build the plant. It will house a trio of turbines, each capable of producing electricity whether the river is moving fast or slow.

“We designed it so that it would at several different flows so that we could get the maximum production out of it,” Woodka said.

With a rating of 7.5 megawatts, the plant will create enough power for roughly 3,000 homes. It’s the kind of clean power that City leaders in Pueblo want for their community…

The Conservancy District expects to generate around $1.4 million annually from the sale of it’s electricity. Groundbreaking is expected to take place in May and Woodka said their goal is to have the power plant go online in the Spring of 2018.

Fountain Creek: Pueblo County and Lower Ark join @EPA/CDPHE lawsuit

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Billie Stanton Anleu):

Pueblo County commissioners and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District can intervene in the suit, U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch ruled Thursday.

A year ago, Pueblo County commissioners signed off on an intergovernmental stormwater agreement with Colorado Springs, ensuring that the city will spend $460 million over 20 years to provide 71 stormwater projects aimed at minimizing Fountain Creek’s effects on downstream communities.

The creek flows downstream carrying excess sedimentation, E. coli contamination and other pollution, claims the Lower Ark, which represents the largely agricultural areas of Bent, Crowley, Otero, Prowers and Pueblo counties.

County officials have echoed those concerns.

And the EPA, after conducting audits in 2013 and 2015 of the city’s stormwater system, found that the creek and its tributaries were eroded and widened, their waters combining with surface runoff to create excessive sedimentation and substandard water quality.

Federal officials upbraided the city for not demanding enough infrastructure from developers and for not maintaining the culverts and creeks snaking through the city.

The lawsuit, filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on the EPA’s behalf, and by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, is a serious concern for Mayor John Suthers, who has made the city’s long-neglected stormwater infrastructure a top priority.

In addition to the agreement with Pueblo County, he has more than doubled the stormwater division’s staff, added a new manager and overseen the Nov. 2 release of an inch-thick Stormwater Program Implementation Plan.

The EPA and state filed suit one week later, on Nov. 9.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas):

Pueblo County was granted a motion Thursday that allows the county to join in a federal/state lawsuit against the city of Colorado Springs.

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District also was allowed to join the case as an intervenor to protect the district’s interest during the litigation…

Pueblo County filed the motion to intervene last week. The lawsuit was filed Nov. 9 in U.S. District Court in Denver by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment against Colorado Springs.

The Lower Ark district filed the same motion in November.

The lawsuit claims there is harm caused by discharges of pollutants down Fountain Creek into Pueblo and east to the Arkansas River’s other tributaries.

It also claims the city of Colorado Springs made numerous violations of their Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System permit issued by the state.

Alleged violations by Colorado Springs include the failure to adequately fund its stormwater management program, to properly maintain its stormwater facilities and to reduce the discharge of pollutants to the maximum extent practicable.

Hart and fellow Commissioners Sal Pace and Garrison Ortiz have said they cherish the relationship the county has developed with Colorado Springs through negotiations over the Southern Delivery System’s 1041 permit agreement and hope this will not do anything to damage it.

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.
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.

Fountain Creek: Pueblo County commissioners approve county joining @EPA, CDPHE lawsuit

Fountain Creek erosion via The Pueblo Chieftain
Fountain Creek erosion via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas):

The Pueblo County commissioners on Wednesday asked staff to file a motion to intervene in a lawsuit filed Nov. 9 in U.S. District Court in Denver by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment against Colorado Springs.

Pueblo County wants to join the case to protect its interest during the litigation.

“We did it primarily to make sure we have a seat at the table,” said Pueblo County Commission Chairman Terry Hart.

“It’s one of those issues that whenever any kind of conversation is going on that concerns Fountain Creek or the water volume or quality that’s in the creek, we feel it affects the citizens in our community.”

[…]

By intervening in the lawsuit Pueblo County hopes to:

Support the EPA and CDPHE in its regulatory mission.

Ensure that stormwater control infrastructure within Colorado Springs is properly operated and maintained.

Ensure that there are no conflicts or inconsistencies between the stormwater intergovernmental agreement recently entered by the county and Colorado Springs and any remedy, judgment or settlement entered in this case.

Require Colorado Springs to become, and then remain, compliant with the Clean Water Act, the Colorado Water Quality Control Act, stormwater regulations and the conditions of Colorado Springs’ MS4 permit, and protect against future violations.

Work with Colorado Springs to develop, implement and enforce its’ Stormwater Management Program as required by the MS4 permit.

Prohibit Colorado Springs from discharging stormwater that is not in compliance with its MS4 permit or its SMP.

@csindependent: A toxic water supply has left beloved Venetucci Farm in limbo

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.
Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

From the Colorado Springs Independent (Nat Stein):

To say that the 2016 season didn’t go well for Venetucci Farm is an understatement.

It was historically bad, but not for lack of rain or a pest infestation or anything that farmers are accustomed to dealing with. First, toxic chemicals discovered in the farm’s water supply in May prompted the suspension of produce sales mid-season. Then, at season’s end, a brutal hail storm wiped out the remaining solace of Venetucci’s fans — its hallmark pumpkin crop.

News isn’t improving. In a normal year, planting would be coming up in late March, but operations on the farm are currently stalled. This could be the first season in over a century that area consumers go without fresh, local food from the region’s oldest working farm.

Uncertainty reigns. Nobody knows the full consequences of irrigating crops with water containing perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) at levels above what the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for drinking. And then there’s the question of who will own and run Venetucci Farm, which was entrusted to the Pikes Peak Community Foundation in 2006 by Bambina “Bambi” Venetucci after the 2004 death of her husband, local farmer Dominico “Nick” Venetucci.

Bambi passed away in 2015 with the desire and belief that the family’s land would carry on in perpetuity as a working farm that welcomes schoolchildren to come pick pumpkins, free of charge, every fall. (Their generosity remains legendary — there’s a statue of Nick next to the Pioneers Museum and a depiction of him gifting a pumpkin on the label of Bristol Brewing Company’s highly popular annual Venetucci Pumpkin Ale.)

But, even before the water crisis arose, PPCF, under new leadership, had begun reevaluating all of its legacy assets, including Venetucci Farm. Over the past few months, an advisory committee has been meeting to vet visions for a post-PPCF Venetucci, with a recommendation expected in early March. The board will take it from there — without any chance for public input.

Whatever the foundation decides to do with the farm, recently installed CEO Gary Butterworth is unequivocal that the legacy of Nick and Bambi Venetucci will carry on. But no matter who stewards it into the future, their legacy may already be tainted by decades of chemical build-up in the aquifer beneath the farm.

Indeed, none of this sits well with longtime consumers like across-the-street neighbor Brittany McCollough. She’s less worried about what’s in the water — “everything’s poison these days,” she notes dryly — and more worried that those who actually eat Venetucci-grown food no longer have a seat at the table.

“It seems like the ‘community’ part has been taken out of ‘community foundation,'” she says, telling the Independent that “[consumers] have been left in the dark even though we’re impacted the most.” A teacher during the school year, McCollough helps run Venetucci’s farm stand over the summers, distributing weekly boxes of produce to community-supported agriculture (CSA) members in exchange for her own share. She’s been getting fresh vegetables for herself and her young son this way for about seven years. For her, all the extraneous factors affecting the farm are beside the point. “There are so many choices to make in the world and knowing the people who grow my food, right across the street in my own watershed — that’s really important to me,” she says.

From the Colorado Springs Independent (Nat Stein):

Scientists from the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Axys, a private lab in Canada, all came to the farm to investigate. They took water, soil, plant and meat samples to test for PFC content. It took months for results to come back, and even then, their data took the form of raw numbers — not risk assessment, which is what the farm really needed.

For an official interpretation of the results, Venetucci counted on the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE). Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Mike Van Dyke was willing to oblige, since he had received multiple inquiries from citizens who wanted to know whether food grown with PFC-contaminated water was safe. There just wasn’t much research out there.

“If it were something like lead, that’s more common and actually regulated, there’d be a framework out there,” he tells the Indy. “But basically what we did was the School of Mines had done some research on uptake of PFCs by fruits and vegetables. So they’ve developed models saying, ‘If you have x amount in soil and x amount in water, you’re likely to end up with x amount in the vegetables.”

So he and his team looked at the data those other labs had previously collected, picking out the highest concentrations to use in their analysis.

“We used maximums, not averages, to kind of get a worst case scenario,” Van Dyke says. “The idea was to get a conservative estimate at first, then become more lenient over time if we get additional data that warrants it.”

For the other variables, the team borrowed federal standards: EPA’s drinking water advisory for the acceptable limit of PFCs and USDA’s recommendations for daily food consumption. (That’s three vegetable servings and two fruit servings for children, and one more of each for adults. A serving equates to 100 grams of vegetables and 150 grams of fruit.)

Given all that, CDPHE found that eating the federally-recommended amount of Venetucci’s produce, even with the highest possible uptake levels, likely won’t expose you to dangerous levels of PFCs. And in reality, let’s admit it, most people get their produce from different sources and don’t eat enough of it.

Fountain Creek: Pueblo County Commissioners direct staff to draft motion to join @EPA, CDPHE lawsuit

Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain
Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Billie Stanton Anleu):

Pueblo County – having already received a commitment of $460 million in stormwater projects from Colorado Springs over 20 years – now wants to join in a federal and state lawsuit citing Colorado Springs for violating its federal stormwater permit…

Wednesday, Pueblo County commissioners decided to try to join in the lawsuit, following a December effort by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District to also become a plaintiff. The motion to include the Lower Ark, as it is known, hasn’t been decided.

The Lower Ark, representing Bent, Crowley, Otero, Prowers and Pueblo counties, has seen Colorado Springs break stormwater promises repeatedly, said district Executive Director Jay Winner.

Pueblo County commissioners echoed such complaints, saying the city doesn’t adequately fund its stormwater management program, maintain the infrastructure or reduce discharge of pollutants.

In addition to the $460 million stormwater pact, the city has increased stormwater funding to $19 million a year, including $3 million from Colorado Springs Utilities. That’s up from $5 million in 2015.

Pueblo County and Lower Ark both cite increased E. coli levels, erosion, sedimentation and flooding.

The county’s action was another blow for Mayor John Suthers, who has committed to rectifying the city’s stormwater problems since he took office in June 2015…

Said Pueblo County Commission spokeswoman Paris Carmichael: “This isn’t about picking a fight with Colorado Springs. This is about giving the citizens of Pueblo County a voice.”

The county had threatened last year to withhold a permit essential for completion of the $825 million Southern Delivery System, a massive water project delivering Arkansas River water to Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West.

So Suthers and other city officials worked with Pueblo city and county officials to hammer out the $460 million intergovernmental agreement, which facilitated release of the permit.

Meanwhile, Suthers also got to work reorganizing the city’s Stormwater Division, bringing in new director Richard Mulledy, who had worked in Pueblo; ratcheting up its staff from 28 to an eventual 66; and releasing an inch-thick new Stormwater Program Implementation Plan on Nov. 2, one week before the EPA filed suit.

The mayor now is asking voters to approve an April 4 ballot measure that would let the city retain $6 million in excess sales tax revenues to further improve the stormwater system. The city’s extra tax money is expected to top out at $9 million or more, with any amount above the $6 million request being refunded to residents if the ballot issue passes.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas):

The Pueblo County commissioners on Wednesday asked staff to file a motion to intervene in a lawsuit filed Nov. 9 in U.S. District Court in Denver by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment against Colorado Springs.

Pueblo County wants to join the case to protect its interest during the litigation.

“We did it primarily to make sure we have a seat at the table,” said Pueblo County Commission Chairman Terry Hart.

“It’s one of those issues that whenever any kind of conversation is going on that concerns Fountain Creek or the water volume or quality that’s in the creek, we feel it affects the citizens in our community.”

[…]

Hart and fellow Commissioners Sal Pace and Garrison Ortiz said although there are pros and cons in entering the lawsuit, representing Pueblo County citizens is the most important issue.

“I feel that we have an obligation as a board, as elected officials and as leaders in Pueblo County to ensure that we are doing absolutely everything we can to protect our infrastructure, quality of water and the health and welfare of our citizens,” Ortiz said.

Pace said he greatly cherishes the relationship the county has developed with Colorado Springs through negotiations over the Southern Delivery System’s 1041 permit agreement and hopes this will not do anything to damage it…

Suthers’ office issued a statement from the mayor when contacted Wednesday.

“In light of the fact that Pueblo County is well aware of the outstanding stormwater program Colorado Springs is putting together and that we are meeting and exceeding our commitments under the intergovernmental agreement between our entities, I am very disappointed in their decision to seek to intervene in the EPA lawsuit. Intervention by parties without regulatory authority will only serve to make the litigation more complex, more lengthy, more expensive for all parties and possibly more unproductive.”

[…]

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District also wants to join the case as an intervenor to protect the district’s interest during the litigation.

The district filed the same motion in November. A federal judge has yet to make a decision on if the district can join the suit…

Pueblo City Council President Steve Nawrocki said the city manager will ask Council on Monday to give him direction on the issue…

WHAT IT MEANS

By intervening in the lawsuit Pueblo County hopes to:

Support the EPA and CDPHE in its regulatory mission.

Ensure that stormwater control infrastructure within Colorado Springs is properly operated and maintained.

Ensure that there are no conflicts or inconsistencies between the stormwater intergovernmental agreement recently entered by the county and Colorado Springs and any remedy, judgment or settlement entered in this case.

Require Colorado Springs to become, and then remain, compliant with the Clean Water Act, the Colorado Water Quality Control Act, stormwater regulations and the conditions of Colorado Springs’ MS4 permit, and protect against future violations.

Work with Colorado Springs to develop, implement and enforce its’ Stormwater Management Program as required by the MS4 permit.

Prohibit Colorado Springs from discharging stormwater that is not in compliance with its MS4 permit or its SMP.