Lower Ark district joins federal lawsuit against #Colorado Springs — @ChieftainNews

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District has joined a federal lawsuit against Colorado Springs for not controlling stormwater flooding and discharging pollutants into Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River.

The lawsuit was filed last month in U.S. District Court in Denver by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Health and Public Environment.

Essentially, the suit argues that Colorado Springs has continued to violate federal clean water standards with discharges into Fountain Creek that sometimes contain high levels of E. coli bacteria and fecal coliform.

The lack of stormwater controls isn’t in question. Colorado Springs officials have negotiated a deal with Pueblo County to spend $460 million over 20 years on flood control.

When the lawsuit was filed, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers complained that any money the city spends fighting lawsuits over stormwater flooding would be better spent on fixing the problems.

But the Lower Arkansas board decided last month that too little has been done. Its lawyers urged the board to join the lawsuit to make certain the district participates in any negotiated settlement with Colorado Springs over flooding problems on Fountain Creek.

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.

@USGS: Characterization and relation of precipitation, streamflow, and water-quality data at the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Carson and Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, Colorado, water years 2013–14

fortcarsonpinoncanyonusgs

Click here to read the report. Here’s the abstract:

To evaluate the influence of military training activities on streamflow and water quality, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of the Army, began a hydrologic data collection network on the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Carson in 1978 and on the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site in 1983. This report is a summary and characterization of the precipitation, streamflow, and water-quality data collected at 43 sites between October 1, 2012, and September 30, 2014 (water years 2013 and 2014).

Variations in the frequency of daily precipitation, seasonal distribution, and seasonal and annual precipitation at 5 stations at the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Carson and 18 stations at or near the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site were evaluated. Isohyetal diagrams indicated a general pattern of increase in total annual precipitation from east to west at the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Carson and the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site. Between about 54 and 79 percent of daily precipitation was 0.1 inch or less in magnitude. Precipitation events were larger and more frequent between July and September.

Daily streamflow data from 16 sites were used to evaluate temporal and spatial variations in streamflow for the water years 2013 and 2014. At all sites, median daily mean streamflow for the 2-year period ranged from 0.0 to 9.60 cubic feet per second. Daily mean streamflow hydrographs are included in this report. Five sites on the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site were monitored for peak stage using crest-stage gages.

At the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, five sites had a stage recorder and precipitation gage, providing a paired streamflow-precipitation dataset. There was a statistically significant correlation between precipitation and streamflow based on Spearman’s rho correlation (rho values ranged from 0.17 to 0.35).

Suspended-sediment samples were collected in April through October for water years 2013–14 at one site at the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Carson and five sites at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site. Suspended-sediment-transport curves were used to illustrate the relation between streamflow and suspended-sediment concentration. All these sediment-transport curves showed a streamflow dependent suspended-sediment concentration relation except for the U.S. Geological Survey station Bent Canyon Creek at mouth near Timpas, CO.

Water-quality data were collected and reported from seven sites on the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Carson and the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site during water years 2013–14. Sample results exceeding an established water-quality standard were identified. Selected water-quality properties and constituents were stratified to compare spatial variation among selected characteristics using boxplots.

Trilinear diagrams were used to classify water type based on ionic concentrations of water-quality samples collected during the study period.

At the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Carson and the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, 27 samples were classified as very hard or brackish. Seven samples had a lower hardness character relative to the other samples. Four of those nine samples were collected at two U.S. Geological Survey stations (Turkey Creek near Fountain, CO, and Little Fountain Creek above Highway 115 at Fort Carson, CO), which have different geologic makeup. Three samples collected at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site had a markedly lower hardness likely because of dilution from an increase in streamflow.

Lamar: 2016 Annual Meeting Arkansas River Compact Administration, Friday, December 9, 2016

Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth
Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

From email from the Arkansas River Compact Administration:

The 2016 Annual Meeting of the Arkansas River Compact Administration (ARCA) will be held on Friday, December 9, 2016, commencing at 8:00 A.M. MST (9:00 A.M. CST) at the location noted above. The meeting will be recessed for lunch at about 12:00 P.M. and reconvened for the completion of business in the afternoon as necessary.

The Engineering, Operations, and Administrative/Legal Committees of ARCA will meet on Thursday, December 8, 2016, also at the location noted above, starting at 1:00 PM. MST (2:00 P.M. CST) and continuing to completion. The public is invited to attend the Committee meetings, however please be aware time for comments may be limited.

Meetings of ARCA are operated in compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. If you need a special accommodation as a result of a disability please contact Stephanie Gonzales at (719) 688-0799 at least three days before the meeting.

This information is also available on ARCA’s website: http://www.co-ks-arkansasrivercompactadmin.org/

UAWCD files objection in Coaldale water case — The Mountain Mail

Graphic via the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District
Graphic via the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District

From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board of directors voted at its recent meeting to file an objection to the Security Water District’s court application for a change of water rights on Hayden Creek in Coaldale (Division 2, case 2016CW3055).

In discussing whether or not to get involved in the case, Upper Ark directors mentioned unresolved issues with Hill Ranch near Nathrop after the Pueblo West Metropolitan District purchased the ranch, changed the water right and dried up the land.

The directors’ discussion highlighted three main concerns:

  • Ensuring that the amount of water claimed by Security is not excessive.
  • Ensuring that Security administers the amount and timing of return flows so that other water rights are not injured by the change of use.
  • Ensuring that the dried-up ranch land is properly revegetated.
  • Security acquired the 1894 agricultural water rights when it purchased a Coaldale ranch that, according to the filing, historically used the water to irrigate 195 acres.

    The filing cites Security’s own study of consumptive water use on the ranch from 1912 through 2006 in asserting that historical water use “resulted in net stream depletions (consumptive use credits) of approximately 236 annual acre-feet.”

    Security seeks to change the Hayden Creek water rights from an agricultural use in Coaldale to a municipal use in Security, allowing the water to flow into Pueblo Reservoir before diverting the proposed 236 acre-feet per year through the Fountain Valley Conduit.

    The Security filing indicates that the water right may be used for continued irrigation on the ranch “to the extent not limited by municipal use of the depletion credits and dry-up requirements.”

    In the filing Security commits to constructing a Coaldale augmentation station to measure and administer the Hayden Creek water rights. The filing also indicates Security “may construct a groundwater recharge facility” that “may be used for recharge to the aquifer and later delivery of accretion credits back to the Arkansas River” (i.e., return flows).

    This would help prevent injury to other water rights holders because the return flows would be delivered to the river in the same location as the historical return flows created by irrigating the ranch.

    But the filing also indicates that Security may “replace return flow obligations to the Arkansas River” by means of “releases from Pueblo Reservoir,” which could injure other water rights between Coaldale and Pueblo Reservoir.

    Since Security owns the Hayden Creek water rights, the Upper Ark district’s filing won’t prevent the change of use, but as an objector, the conservancy district will receive future filings in the case and will have the opportunity to negotiate stipulations to address concerns.

    City’s stormwater inspectors keep an eye out for violations — The #Colorado Springs Independent

    Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain
    Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

    From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    [Stormwater enforcement actions represent] a 10-fold increase over 2015 and a dramatic uptick from a time when the city largely ignored violations of its own stormwater regulations. And this could just be a start — the city is also looking at a new program that would give it even more muscle against violators.

    The ramp-up is due in part to Mayor John Suthers’ response to pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Those agencies issued two highly critical reports of the city’s stormwater maintenance and regulation enforcement in recent years, and on Nov. 9 the EPA filed a lawsuit alleging the city’s lax approach violates its MS4 permit and the Clean Water Act. The lawsuit could bring multi-million-dollar civil penalties and federal monitoring.

    In early 2007, City Council imposed stormwater fees on property owners, raising about $16 million a year for drainage projects and maintenance.

    But in 2009, the Council defunded the program after voters approved a measure aimed at killing the fees. After that, the EPA lawsuit states, the city’s stormwater program limped along on an average of $1.6 million a year from 2011 to 2014.

    Despite a scathing EPA report in 2013, then-Mayor Steve Bach did little, and even opposed a citizen-driven ballot measure for drainage that failed in 2014. Without more money, city officials have said, they couldn’t effectively track down violators.

    That neglect had ramifications: In addition to possible EPA fines, uncontrolled drainage enraged officials in downstream Pueblo County, who in turn threatened agreements on Colorado Springs Utilities’ Southern Delivery System pipeline. So, earlier this year, Suthers and Council adopted a $460-million, 20-year stormwater program to fend off fines and cope with the city’s extensive drainage problems. One part of that program: oversight to verify compliance by contractors. Last year, the city’s stormwater staff numbered about 20. Today, it stands at 56, and another 10 will be added next year. Many of those are inspectors who troll for violators…

    Though stormwater program manager Rich Mulledy says inspectors fan out over the city, most offenses were spotted on the city’s northeast side where development is brisk, records show…

    Mulledy stresses the city would rather gain compliance than punish builders. He doesn’t like the word “crackdown” to describe the city’s approach in enforcing its MS4 permit, which requires erosion control for all projects larger than one acre.

    “Just because of the number of houses being built, we’ve really stepped up,” he says, quickly adding that the industry has proven a willing partner. The city, he notes, has the authority to issue summonses that carry fines of $500 per day, but no fines have been levied so far.

    “We’ve had compliance,” he says, “We’re committed from the city’s standpoint to make sure we’re doing the right thing to meet our permit going forward, and I feel the industry is supportive going forward. We have to meet the federal permit for sure, but we want to do the right thing and still have developers make progress and be able to do business.”

    Builders and developers are all in, says Tim Seibert, president of the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs.

    “Obviously, just like the mayor stated, we’re not pleased to hear the EPA has filed a lawsuit,” Seibert says. “We think there is a better solution. But at the end of the day, we want to be at the table and be sure we’re in compliance.”

    Seibert says the HBA hosts monthly “Wet Wednesday” meetings at which its members are instructed in stormwater regulations, such as erosion control and best management practices.

    “With the recent enforcement, we’ve stepped that up,” he adds. “We’ve made it more thorough. We’ve gotten a lot of cooperation from the city telling us, ‘These are the practices we need to see.’ I think that’s been very helpful for them to get in contact with guys in the field doing the implementation.”

    The HBA also added a monthly meeting with Mulledy at which design standards are discussed. “We want to make sure we’re not getting ourselves in trouble, and we don’t want the city to get in trouble,” Seibert says.

    He also says that as the city shapes its program to satisfy federal authorities, HBA members realize more enforcement is coming.

    Mulledy won’t discuss details of the new program — still being worked out — but says it will clarify enforcement steps, and allow officials to “jump steps” if a violation poses an immediate threat to the city’s stormwater system or downstream. Currently being reviewed by stakeholders, the program will be introduced within a few months.

    “In general,” Mulledy says, “it’s going to be more specific and give us more tools.”

    Widefield Water and Sanitation stops use of contaminated aquifer water — The #Colorado Springs Gazette

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

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

    The Widefield Water and Sanitation District became the last major water system to stop using well water from the tainted aquifer, according to the district’s water manager, Brandon Bernard.

    As of Nov. 10, all of the district’s customers receive cleaner surface water from the Pueblo Reservoir.

    “We’re looking forward to moving forward without having to worry about PFCs,” said Bernard, using an acronym for the toxic chemicals.

    The announcement ends one chapter of a water crisis that sent thousands of residents scrambling for bottled water…

    The contamination has spawned two class-action lawsuits against companies that manufactured the foam. The Air Force, which found the chemical harmful to laboratory animals as early as the 1970s, also is studying its role in the contamination by drilling several test wells around Peterson Air Force Base…

    For months, local water officials raced to limit residents’ exposure to the chemicals, which remain unregulated by the EPA.

    Fountain officials shut off their wells in fall 2015 – relying instead on cleaner water from the Pueblo Reservoir. But other water districts couldn’t meet customers’ demands this past summer without using contaminated well water.

    Security Water and Sanitation Districts weaned itself from the aquifer in September.

    Officials for all three water districts are optimistic that customers will no longer receive contaminated water from the aquifer, unless its cleansed of the toxic chemicals.

    Officials in Security and Fountain have previously voiced plans to build treatment plants to filter the fouled water. Water rates there could rise to help finance those projects.

    Widefield officials, however, are conducting two test projects to determine whether ion exchange or granular activated carbon filters best remove the chemicals, Bernard said.

    Widefield’s test projects, which began in October, are expected to last six months, he said.

    The district also is planning a $1 million project to install a pipe under Interstate 25 capable of bringing in more water from the Pueblo Reservoir. Widefield has several thousand acre feet of water stored at the Pueblo Reservoir, and officials there are no longer concerned about running out of water rights this year.

    District leaders also plan to meet with Air Force officials on Thursday to coordinate how the military can help filter water. In July, the Air Force vowed to spend $4.3 million to supply bottled water and well water filters for the affected communities.

    Unlike other water districts, Widefield is not planning to raise rates in 2017 to pay for the water projects, Bernard said. Rather, they will be paid for using reserve funding.

    Customers are only likely to pay for operations costs once a treatment plant is built, he said.

    “It’s nice just to not have to worry about our customers being concerned,” Bernard said. “And now we can just move forward with fixing the problem.”

    Photo via USAF Air Combat Command
    Photo via USAF Air Combat Command

    Lower Ark joins Fountain Creek lawsuit — The Pueblo Chieftain

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

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas):

    During their monthly meeting…Lower Arkansas board members voted unanimously to join a lawsuit filed last week against Colorado Springs for discharging pollutants into Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River.

    Members also said they have asked Pueblo City Council and the Pueblo County commissioners to join the lawsuit, as well.

    “I can’t see where Pueblo County and the city cannot step up and do the same thing,” said Anthony Nunez, a former Pueblo County commissioner who sits on the Lower Ark board…

    Peter Nichols, an attorney and a Lower Ark director, told board members that intervening in the lawsuit would give them a seat at the table in any sort of trial or negotiated settlement that might occur…

    Nunez said Colorado Springs needs to be held accountable and, in the nearly six years he has been on the board, he’s heard the same thing from Colorado Springs over and over again.

    “We’ve met with the (Colorado Springs) City Council. I guess to put it in better terms, we meet with half of the City Council because they are always waiting for the next city council,” Nunez said.

    “We have talked and talked, and I think it is time that actions be taken.”

    […]

    “As long as they can keep giving us the stiff arm — put us off, put us off, put us off — they don’t feel like they have any obligation because, quite frankly, if they have a violation, they pay a small fine and that fine is far less than rectifying the entire problem,” [Melissa Esquibel] said.