R.I.P. Robert Hoag Rawlings

Bob Rawlings. Photo credit The High Country News.

Here’s the obit from The Pueblo Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:

Almost immediately after taking over the reins of the newspapers from his late uncle, Frank Hoag Jr., in 1980, he began using the editorial pages to advocate for Pueblo and Southeastern Colorado. He fought to protect institutions such as Colorado State University-Pueblo and the Colorado State Fair, but was best known for his battle to protect the quantity and quality of water that flows into Pueblo from Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River.

Unleashing his newsroom and his editorial writers, Rawlings’ Chieftain published thousands of stories on the topic of water, and won numerous state and regional awards for its reporting and editorials. As a direct result of Rawlings’ efforts, Northern Colorado communities that tried to buy water rights from the Arkansas River Valley were thwarted or forced to accept numerous conditions such as financial payments to government and revegetation of lands dried up.

Also, thanks mostly to Rawlings, the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District was approved by voters to likewise fight to protect the area’s water.

It also is safe to say that many significant projects — such as the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo, several multi-million dollar school bond issues, and the acquisition of university status for the University of Southern Colorado, now Colorado State University-Pueblo — might not have taken place without the constant advocacy for and support of Rawlings and The Chieftain.

When Pueblo needed a new main library, voters approved a large, efficient and modernized project. But Rawlings donated an additional $4 million to the project, and the Robert Hoag Rawlings Public Library on Abriendo Avenue became one of the community’s most dazzling landmarks. The architectural wonder is one of many projects throughout the community that have been made possible thanks to Rawlings’ generosity.

Always fascinated by politics, he became friends to governors, U.S. senators and members of Congress — as long as they supported Pueblo and Southeastern Colorado. He worked closely with innumerable City Council members, county commissioners and school board members, pushing them constantly to make his beloved Pueblo even better.

Click here to view the Chieftain Rawlings photo gallery.

More about Bob Rawlings from The Pueblo Chieftain.

Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

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.

Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey
Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

From the La Junta Tribune-Democrat (Bette McFarren):

[Roy] Vaughan’s information confirmed what the directors and audience already knew: the snowpack is super and the water supply in reservoirs way above average. Vaughan wasn’t sure the drought was broken, but Director Leroy Mauch said the breaking of the drought has been announced on the radio. As of January 11, 214,296 acre-feet were stored in the Pueblo Reservoir and 134,442 a/f of project water, 41,694 a/f of excess capacity water, 38,158 a/f of winter water. There are 110,931 a/f of project space in Pueblo and 38,928 a/f of project space in Twin and Turquoise. The collection system has been winterized. Mt. Elbert conduit is presently running 350 cubic feet per second. 205 cfs are moving from Twin to Pueblo. The Bureau intends to move an additional 40,000 a/f from the upper reservoirs. The movement of water will be adjusted according to the forecast and customers’ needs.

Manager Jay Winner is working on pilot programs. In one, some ponds will be sealed to prevent loss through seepage. “We have already shown how much water is lost through evaporation and seepage in present ponds,” said Winner. The base line is established. Another pilot program will test the feasibility of trading water pollution downstream. This may lead to a solution of the problem of certain naturally-occurring pollutants in this area, notably selenium.

Mark Holmberg’s study of hydrology and geospatial analylsis of water table changes in the Lower Arkansas Valley will produce poster-sized maps of the bedrock, alluvial plain and average water levels in the Arkansas River Valley from the Pueblo Reservoir to the Colorado-Kansas Line. His study revealed a drop in water level of approximately 3 percent, presenting figures from 2001, 2008 and 2015. The study is now in the editorial division for finishing touches and will soon be published.

Mike Weber of the LAVWCD gave an overview of conservation trusts. During the year, LAVWCD closed on three easements: Leonard Joseph Proctor, Rex Reyher and Stan Cline. LAVWCD also participated in four easements with the Palmer Land Trust. At the end of 2016, LAVWCD has closed a total of 56 conservation easements (not counting Palmer Land Trust work). LAVWCD now holds easements in the following counties: Bent, Crowley, Custer, Fremont, Huerfano, Otero, Prowers, Pueblo and Teller, and under the following eight ditches/canals: Bessemer, Catlin, Colorado, Fort Bent, Fort Lyon, Highline, Holbrook and Otero.

CDPHE and @EPA hope the Lower Ark is allowed to join their lawsuit

Report: Remediation Scenarios for Attenuating Peak Flows and Reducing Sediment Transport in Fountain Creek, Colorado, 2013
Report: Remediation Scenarios for Attenuating Peak Flows and Reducing Sediment Transport in Fountain Creek, Colorado, 2013

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Robert Voczkiewicz):

The state and federal agencies told a judge Thursday that they support the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District’s request to have a courtroom voice in a clean-water lawsuit against Colorado Springs.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are suing the city, which discharges pollutants into Fountain Creek and other tributaries.

The Lower Ark district wants to join the case as an intervenor to protect the district’s interest during the litigation…

Senior Judge Richard Matsch is presiding over the case in U.S. District Court in Denver and will decide whether to grant Lower Ark’s request.

The EPA and the state health-environment department filed the lawsuit Nov. 9. It alleges that Colorado Springs’ storm sewer system is violating federal and state clean water laws.

The city denies it is violating the laws. Mayor John Suthers recently pointed to additional expenditures the city is making as an example of its commitment to correct storm water problems.

The storm water contains pollutants, including E. coli, that flow into the river from creek tributaries.

The district encompasses Bent, Crowley, Otero, Prowers and Pueblo counties, where considerable produce, including Rocky Ford melons, are grown.

In Thursday’s court filing reviewed by The Pueblo Chieftain, the EPA and the department told Matsch they agree with Lower Ark that it should have a voice in court because the district wants the river water to have adequate quality.

To achieve that, the agencies and the district want Colorado Springs to reduce the amount of polluted discharges.

The environmental agencies contend Colorado Springs mischaracterizes the lawsuit as being focused on past issues, but it in fact “seeks to remedy current and ongoing violations.”

The environmental agencies disagree with Colorado Springs’ arguments that the district has no legal right to become an intervenor and that intervention will unduly complicate the litigation.

The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the city “to develop, implement and enforce” its stormwater management program, as required by permits the government has issued. The lawsuit goes on to ask a judge to impose monetary penalties on Colorado Springs for the violations.

Colorado Springs hopes to prevent Lower Ark joining EPA and CDPHE lawsuit

Fountain Creek flood debris May 2014 via The Pueblo Chieftain
Fountain Creek flood debris May 2014 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Jon Pompia):

Colorado Springs is opposing an Arkansas River water district’s request to join a lawsuit that seeks to stop the city from discharging pollutants into Fountain Creek and other tributaries of the river.

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District wants a voice against Colorado Springs by being allowed to take part in the litigation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Health jointly filed the lawsuit Nov. 9 in U.S. District Court in Denver against Colorado Springs. The lawsuit claims that the city’s discharges of polluted stormwater into the tributaries violate state and federal clean water laws.

The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring Colorado Springs “to take all steps necessary to redress or mitigate the impact of its violations.”

The lawsuit also seeks a court order to require the city “to develop, implement and enforce” its stormwater management program, as required by permits the government has issued. The lawsuit goes on to ask a judge to impose monetary penalties on Colorado Springs for the violations.

Water runoff from streets, parking lots and other surfaces picks up pollutants that drain into the stormwater sewage system, which discharges it into the creeks.

Pollutants include accumulated debris, chemicals and sediment. They “can adversely affect water quality, erode stream banks, destroy needed habitat for fish and other aquatic life, and make it more difficult and expensive for downstream users to effectively use the water,” the lawsuit states

The water district on Dec. 9 asked Senior Judge Richard Matsch for permission to become an intervenor to protect the district’s interests to have clean and usable water from the river.

The city on Dec. 22 filed arguments opposing the district’s request. The city contends that the district has no legal right to intervene.

The district — as well as Pueblo officials — has long been a critic of Colorado Springs for sending polluted and sediment-filled stormwater, including dangerous E. coli bacteria, into the river and for not controlling flooding the water causes.

The district encompasses Bent, Crowley, Otero, Prowers and Pueblo counties, where considerable produce, including Rocky Ford melons, are grown.

Colorado Springs officials have negotiated a deal with Pueblo County for the city to spend $460 million over 20 years on Fountain Creek flood control.

The Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs reported last Friday that Mayor John Suthers cited that commitment as an example of how his administration is working to resolve the complaints of its downstream neighbors.

In its court filing opposing allowing the district to become a participant in the litigation, the city said the case will be greatly complicated and costs of litigating it will increase. The city also said that the EPA and state environment department will adequately represent the district’s interests.

Attorney Peter Nichols, representing the district, sees it differently, according to The Gazette: “The question is whether the city is already putting a lot of political pressure on the state and EPA to back off. The district is concerned they might be successful with that pressure, and water quality wouldn’t be improved in Fountain Creek,” Nichols said.

The newspaper reported that district Executive Director Jay Winner said Colorado Springs repeatedly had broken promises about the stormwater problems.

Colorado Springs hopes to keep the Lower Ark out of its legal wrangling with the EPA and CDPHE

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.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Billie Stanton Anleu):

Colorado Springs filed arguments last week to keep an Arkansas River water district from joining the federal and state lawsuit that’s demanding cures to city stormwater violations.

But with Rocky Ford melons and other crops at stake, the water district plans to fire back by the Thursday deadline with counterarguments to the U.S. District Court in Denver.

Fountain Creek flows through Colorado Springs and into the Arkansas, bringing excess sedimentation, E. coli contamination and other pollution, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District claims.

The lawsuit it wants to join was filed last month by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency and by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The EPA and Department of Justice negotiated with the city unsuccessfully over the past year to resolve the violations cited in EPA audits in 2013 and in August 2015, two months after Mayor John Suthers took office.

Suthers has made the issue a priority, crafting an agreement with Pueblo County to provide $460 million worth of stormwater projects by 2035, beefing up the city’s stormwater division with a new manager and added engineers and inspectors, and releasing an inch-thick Stormwater Program Implementation Plan on Nov. 2.

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

“From my perspective, they’re dwelling in the past,” Suthers said. “We feel very strongly the EPA and state health need to get down to El Paso County and see how many problems we’ve already fixed.”

The Lower Ark, as the district is known, had given notice in November 2014, that it would sue the city for violating its MS4 permit, which allows for the municipal separate storm sewer system.

That’s what the EPA and state now are suing over as well.

“We were precluded from filing our own lawsuit because our claims were essentially the same,” said Peter Nichols, lawyer for the Lower Ark.

“The question is whether the city is already putting a lot of political pressure on the state and EPA to back off. The district is concerned they might be successful with that pressure, and water quality wouldn’t be improved in Fountain Creek,” Nichols said.

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

The city was collecting about $15 million a year through its Stormwater Enterprise Fund until voters passed ballot Issue 300 in 2009, restricting city enterprise funds. Days later, the City Council voted to phase out the fund by 2011.

Then the Waldo Canyon fire erupted in 2012, creating a burn scar that spawned widespread flooding in 2013, exacerbating problems with Fountain Creek, Monument Creek and other tributaries while spewing sediment and floodwaters downstream.

That year, the EPA audited the city’s stormwater system Feb. 4-7.

Between 2011 and 2014, the city spent $1.6 million a year average on stormwater and had nine full-time employees in that division. Degradation, widening and erosion of streambeds, combined with surface runoff, led to sedimentation and substandard water quality, the EPA and state say.

The next EPA audit, conducted on 14 sections of the city’s system Aug. 18-19, 2015, found “continuous failure” to meet standards or remediate problems highlighted in 2013.

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.