Pueblo West look back at 2017

From the Pueblo West View (Christine Ina Casillas):

Water leak detection

The Pueblo West Metropolitan District hired some new crew in 2017 to help with water leak detection.

These two new staff members will be responsible for water leak detection and repairing the leaks along the 430 miles of potable water lines that run underneath Pueblo West.

Because shale rock formations, just under the ground surface in Pueblo West, many leaks can go undetected for long periods of time, said Jay-Michael Baker, communications and engagement manager with the Pueblo West Metropolitan District.

The water lost in a leak can follow these formations for hundreds of feet in some cases, and then only reach the surface in drainage ditches out of sight of the everyday operations staff and most residents.

“In one recent case the water from a main line leak found its way into the sewer system,” Baker said.

“This leak was discovered when treatment operators observed extra flow in a lift station. Their tip helped the leak detection crew locate the source of the leak.”

Since the leak flowed into the wastewater treatment system, it not only increased the cost of the lost water, but it also increased the cost of treating the extra water.

Detecting and repairing this leak saved the District a significant amount of money.

“I am very pleased with the work of the entire Collection and Distribution department,” said Scott Eilert, director of Utilities for Pueblo West.

“Particularly Rusty Ethredge, department manager, and Ben Gomez, who has taken the lead on the leak detection crew.”

The leak detection crew has located and repaired 10 significant leaks since last October.

The leak detection crew is credited with saving the District 480,685 gallons of treated water; enough to serve the average use of three single family homes for an entire year, Baker said.

“It is impossible to know exactly when a pipeline began to leak so we calculate the lost water from the date and time the leak was located until it was fixed,” Baker said.

Since the leak detection crew came in to service in October 2016, the approximate cost savings to the District for leak detection has been in the tens of thousands of dollars, he said.

In addition to the District’s recent water conservation plan, Pueblo West is conducting telecommunications and energy audits this year to identify waste, and decrease inefficiency.

Operating with a lean budget, any cost-savings that Pueblo West Metro management staff can find improves the quality of services provided to residents, he said.

Because the Pueblo West Metropolitan District looks for ways to increase efficiency and prevent waste within the district, finding solution through regularly reviewing processes and weak points is highlighted, he said.

The District’s water conservation plan, approved by the Colorado Conservation Board in August 2012, ranked leak detection as a high priority, Baker said. In response to this recommendation, the Pueblo West Metro Board approved two new full-time positions dedicated to leak detection for the 2016 budget year.

Water rate hikes

When Pueblo West residents opened their water bill from the September billing cycle, they said they were aghast at the price hike.

Some said it was a significant enough increase that they called the Pueblo West Metropolitan District with concerns about water leaks.

Officials with Pueblo West Utilities held a community meeting on Nov. 29 to answer questions from the public about the water rate increases and about the five-year water and wastewater rate plan.

Residents questioned where and how the water fees applied to their monthly bills and costs associated with sewer charges and leaks.

Kim Swearingen, deputy director of utilities for Pueblo West, said the bill period begins around the 10th of the month, give or take holidays, and go through a 31-day cycle.

For example, she said, the water bill would begin on Oct. 10 and end on Nov. 11. The data from the reading would be analyzed by Nov. 26 and the bill would be sent out and due in December for the October billing cycle.

“It’s almost like a three-month (billing) cycle but it only looks at that 31-day billing period,” she told residents during the meeting on Nov. 29.

The Pueblo West Metropolitan District Board of Directors will hold a final public hearing on Dec. 12 to approve a Water and Wastewater rate increase that will take effect Jan. 1.

The increase is part of a long-range comprehensive financial plan that was first initiated in March 2016 and partially funded by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

The plan recommends a five-year phased implementation that accounts for five years of operations and maintenance costs and a 10-year capital improvement plan.

The 10-year capital improvement plan lays out all long-term infrastructure needs for the Utilities Department.

The intent of the plan is to ensure the Utilities Department has sufficient revenues for the ongoing functions of the water and wastewater enterprises.

Inflation-induced increases in operating and maintenance costs, aging infrastructure, and long-term planning were all factors covered in the long-term financial plan.

The Utilities Department presented the increases to the Board of Directors at over a half dozen Board Meetings over the past two years.

Scott Eilert, director of utilities for Pueblo West, offered examples of projects to receive funding include: a gravity sewer main that serves Tract 220 and the large lot on the northwest corner of Highway 50 and McCulloch Boulevard, a lift station and force main at States Avenue Industrial Park, the rebuild of a pressure zone on Tract 251, a two million gallon water tank on the north side, and wastewater treatment plant upgrades, in addition to dozens of smaller capital projects.

On Sept. 1, the first phase of the rate increase went into effect resulting in an increase of approximately 4.6 percent for an average single-family monthly bill for both water and wastewater.

On Jan. 1, the second rate adjustment will take place with an estimated increase of 4.7 percent for an average single-family monthly bill.

The remainder of the plan adjustments are intended to take effect on Jan. 1 of each year through 2021 after the public hearing.

The water and sewer Plant Investment Fees saw a one-time increase on Sept. 1 and the district does not anticipate adjusting the PIF again within the five-year plan, Eilert said.

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 County Children’s Water Festival recap

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

You could sit all day and stare at the Pueblo Dam and not have a clue about why it’s there, who built it and what it’s for.

Or, if you’re lucky enough to be a fourth- or fifth-grader in Pueblo County, you could spend a day filled with fun activities and learn everything from water safety to the water cycle — including the Pueblo Dam and the kitchen sink.

The Children’s Water Festival began in 1999 and continues each year since, except for 2015, in early May at Colorado State University-Pueblo. About 1,800 fourth- or fifth-graders attend each year from Pueblo City Schools (D60), Pueblo County School District 70 and private schools.

In 2015, the festival was canceled, ironically, because of weather. It was wet and cold the entire month of May, but the big concern was the possibility of thunderstorms. The 2016 program was geared for fifth-graders, who had missed their chance as fourth-graders last year.

“The kids have always enjoyed it,” said Linda Hopkins, a retired employee of the Bureau of Reclamation, who helped coordinate the festival for many years.

She explained that the Pueblo event was patterned after the Nebraska Groundwater Festival, which started in Grand Island, Neb., in 1988.

Internally, Reclamation decided a Pueblo festival would be a good idea in 1999. By then, there were a few other water festivals for children in some other parts of Colorado.

Reclamation in 1999 was involved in one of its most controversial periods in Pueblo since it built Pueblo Dam in the 1970s. The dam was being reinforced to improve its stability, a move that some interpreted as a precursor to enlargement that could benefit large municipal users such as Colorado Springs and Aurora.

“Part of it was to get the bureau’s name out there in a positive way, but mostly it was to expose the kids to water information,” Hopkins recalled. The idea was that the children would take the information home and discuss it with parents or other family members.

Local water providers were immediately supportive, and continue to contribute resources and people each year. The festival has operated smoothly, organizing squadrons of teachers, students and parents armed only with coolers of sack lunches and a big appetite for a six-hour course of water games, lessons and contests.

This year’s festival, held last Tuesday at CSU-Pueblo, was sponsored by Reclamation, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the Pueblo Board of Water Works, Pueblo West and the St. Charles Mesa Water Conservancy District. CSU-Pueblo makes the entire campus available for activities.

“We have a closeout meeting after the festival each year, then start meeting in September or October to plan the next year,” said Toni Gonzales, of the Southeastern district.

The presenters range from high school students to water professionals. With the exception of the Mad Science demonstration — a crowd-pleasing experience that goes beyond water — all of the presenters are volunteers.

“I came to one of these when I was in fourth grade,” said Tony Valenzuela, a member of the Future Farmers of America and Pueblo County High School student.

On Tuesday, he was demonstrating how to set irrigation siphon tubes. The process involves coaxing water through a 4-foot metal tube by capping one end and firmly jiggling it. Farmers use the skill to flood irrigate crops planted in furrows.

“Our family used to farm,” Valenzuela said.

Erik Duran, fire inspector for the Pueblo Fire Department, went over a math lesson with the visual aids of 1-gallon and 5-gallon water cans and a pumper truck that can hold up to 3,000 gallons.

“That hose can pump 1,500 gallons per minute, so how long would it take to empty the tank?” Duran said.

“Two minutes!” the students responded, but you could tell they were thinking: “How long before we get to shoot the hose at those targets?”

Nearby, other students were solving a simpler equation as workers from Pueblo Water demonstrated in real time what happens when a pipe leaks under pressure. Water was shooting out in a 20-foot plume and the goal appeared to be finding out the minimum time running through water (while screaming) in order to soak the maximum amount of clothing.

About three seconds, apparently.

If you go to a water festival, chances are good you’ll get wet.

On the stage of Hoag Hall, Pueblo County High School students gave a theatrical demonstration of the hydrologic cycle, including the popular song: “Evaporation, Condensation, Precipitation, Runoff.”

Well, it was mostly popular because the high school students invited all the teachers in the auditorium to join them onstage in an impromptu line dance.

Other outside displays demonstrated the water cycle, how to stay safe while boating or forest health. Inside, students in one room conducted a mock water court, applying Colorado’s water law to a manufactured dispute. In another, Water Wizards from competing schools answered some tough questions that ranged from global to local in scope.

Tough?

Such as: “How many gallons are used to produce the typical Pueblo lunch (hamburgers, French fries and a soda).”

That’s downright cruel to a kid who hasn’t eaten lunch yet and can look forward only to the peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the cooler. Still, one young lady had the gumption to answer: 1,500 gallons?

Correct, or roughly half a fire truck.

Water festivals are becoming more popular. Trinidad hosted its first in 2012, at the height of a drought. Salida and Colorado Springs are looking at starting their own.

After 17 years, Pueblo’s version continues to give kids a chance to soak up water knowledge.

SDS: #Colorado Springs councillors OK stormwater agreement with Pueblo County

Southern Delivery System map via Colorado Springs Utilities
Southern Delivery System map via Colorado Springs Utilities

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Billie Stanton Anleu):

The City Council committed Colorado Springs on Wednesday to spend more than $460 million over 20 years on a stormwater projects pact with Pueblo County.

The intergovernmental agreement, negotiated chiefly by Mayor John Suthers, is expected to resolve Fountain Creek stormwater problems for downstream residents and avert lawsuits threatened by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Department of Justice and by Pueblo County.

Further, the accord would allow Colorado Springs Utilities’ Southern Delivery System to start pumping water as scheduled on April 27.

Pueblo County officials threatened to rescind that $825 million project’s 1041 permit, which they issued in April 2009, if the city didn’t ante up enough guaranteed funding for stormwater projects.

The deal now hinges on a vote by Pueblo County’s three commissioners, set for 9 a.m. Monday.

Any delay of the SDS would reduce the worth of warrants on equipment and work while leaving four partner communities – Colorado Springs, Pueblo West, Fountain and Security – without the water deliveries they expect.

The council, meeting in special session Wednesday, didn’t hesitate to approve the pact. Only Councilwoman Helen Collins, a steadfast foe of government spending, dissented in the 8-1 vote.

The agreement calls for 71 stormwater projects to be completed by 2035. Engineers for Pueblo County and Colorado Springs chose the projects and will review them each year to allow for fluctuating priorities.

The money will be spent in five-year increments, at a rate of $100 million the first five years followed by $110 million, $120 million and $130 million. Any private developers’ projects or other efforts would be in addition to the promised amounts.

If the projects aren’t completed in time, the accord will be extended five years. And if Colorado Springs can’t come up with the money required, the city-owned Utilities will have to do so.

The agreement was tweaked slightly Wednesday, on request of the Pueblo County commissioners, to increase one miscalculated payment to a water district by $332, to add the word “dam” to references to a study of water-control options, and to add “and vegetation” to a clause about removing debris from Pueblo’s city levees. A clause was added to note that after the agreement expires, both sides agree to coordinate and cooperate with one another, as they always will be upstream-downstream neighbors.

“This is basically an investment in this city,” said water attorney David Robbins, a consulting lawyer for the council. “The stormwater facilities would have ultimately had to be built anyway. They benefit your citizens, not just the people downstream.”

Asked about the option for a dam, Robbins said, “It has been studied, studied again, and another study may add to our knowledge, but doesn’t require this city to contribute any more money. The dam would require moving two railroads and an interstate highway. Just the facility relocation costs make it quite expensive.”

Colorado Springs has failed to properly enforce drainage regulations, conduct adequate inspections, require enough infrastructure from developers or properly maintain and operate its stormwater controls, the EPA found during inspections in August.

The downstream victim has been Pueblo County, which saw Fountain Creek sediment increase at least 278-fold since the Waldo Canyon fire in 2012, degrading water quality and pushing water levels higher, Wright Water Engineers Inc. found during a study for the county last year.

Sediment increased from 90 to 25,075 tons a year, while water yields rose from 2,500 to 4,822 acre-feet, the engineers found.

As Colorado Springs development sprawls, the amount of impermeable pavement grows. So the city also is beefing up its long-underfunded Stormwater Division, increasing the staff of 28 to 58 full-time employees, mostly inspectors, and more than doubling the $3 million budget for compliance to about $7.1 million.

The city and Utilities negotiated for nearly a year with Pueblo County, as Colorado Springs has beefed up its stormwater program to fix the problems and fend off the threats of lawsuits.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Pueblo Board of Water Works would like to see up-front bonding and longer term for an intergovernmental agreement between Pueblo County and Colorado Springs.

Still, it’s probably the best deal possible, the board agreed during comments on the proposed deal at Tuesday’s monthly meeting.

In February, the board provided its input with a resolution recommending certain actions to Pueblo County commissioners.

Colorado Springs City Council approved the deal Wednesday, while Pueblo County commissioners will meet on it Monday. It provides $460 million for stormwater projects over the next 20 years, triggers $50 million in payments over five years for Fountain Creek dams and adds $3 million to help dredge and maintain levees in Pueblo.

“One of the things we encouraged Colorado Springs to do was bond the projects up front,” said Nick Gradisar, president of the water board. “It would be to everyone’s advantage to do the projects sooner rather than later.”

Board member Tom Autobee said the agreement is comprehensive, but was uncertain about the 20-year timeline for improvements.

“What I’d like to see is to extend it beyond 20 years for the life of the project,” Autobee said. “We need to look at that.”

Board member Jim Gardner was assured by Gradisar that Pueblo County is guaranteed a voice in which projects are completed.

“They have a priority list and can’t switch unless both sides agree, as I understand it,” Gradisar said.

“This is a great opportunity to correct the issues,” said Mike Cafasso.

“What we said got listened to,” added Kevin McCarthy. “I think this is the best deal we’re going to get.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs won’t need the full use of the Southern Delivery System for years, but some can’t wait for the $825 million water pipeline to be turned on.

Pueblo County commissioners heard testimony supporting a proposed agreement with Colorado Springs designed to settle issues surrounding the City Council’s decision to abolish its stormwater enterprise after the county had incorporated it into conditions for a 1041 permit in 2009.

“One in five people in Pueblo County live in Pueblo West and are impacted by SDS,” said Jerry Martin, chairman of the Pueblo West metro board. “With the newest break, we will depend on SDS for a very long time.”

Pueblo West joined the SDS project as a costsaving alternative to a direct intake on the Arkansas River downstream of Pueblo Dam. It shared in the cost of permitting and building the pipeline.
Last summer, it used SDS when its own pipeline broke.

Pueblo West’s main supply comes from the South Outlet Works and crosses under the river. The new break is more severe, Martin explained.

An agreement reached last summer allows Pueblo West to use SDS before it is fully operational, and settled some lingering legal issues related to Pueblo West’s partnership in SDS.

Security Water and Sanitation District, located south of Colorado Springs, also needs SDS to go online before summer, said Roy Heald, general manager of the district.

“Security has an immediate need for water because there are emerging contaminant in our wells,” Heald said.

Seven of the district’s 25 wells into the Fountain Creek aquifer were found to be contaminated earlier this year. The solution is to blend water from the Arkansas River with the well water to dilute contaminants. Right now, Security gets enough water from the Fountain Valley Conduit to make its supply safe. But in summer, water demands will increase, Heald explained.

Larry Small, the executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, said the agreement paves the way for flood control projects seven years after the district was formed.

Small was on City Council when the stormwater enterprise was abolished on a 5-4 vote. He voted against eliminating the fee that was then in place. He was hired to run the Fountain Creek district two years later. The district has representatives from both Pueblo and El Paso counties.
The district was formed by the state Legislature out of concerns about the effect of El Paso County’s growth on Fountain Creek and the danger that is posed to Pueblo.

The $460 million for Colorado Springs stormwater projects over the next 20 years is needed to slow down Fountain Creek, but that doesn’t mean Pueblo would be protected. There are at least 18 projects south of Colorado Springs involving either detention ponds or dams that the district wants to get started on.

That process would get a kick start with $20 million in the next nine months if the agreement is approved by commissioners and Colorado Springs City Council in the next week. Three more payments of $10 million over the next three years would follow under terms of the 1041 agreement.

“This agreement says that we’re not just going to put something in place, but that we’re going to monitor it,” Small told commissioners. “It’s a cooperative, collaborative process. We don’t have to rely on rumors and innuendo.”

The city of Pueblo also would benefit from a potential $6 million in Fountain Creek dredging or levee maintenance projects that would cost the city only $1.2 million over the next three years. Pueblo Stormwater Director Jeff Bailey last week told The Pueblo Chieftain that the city has projects lined up, depending on how the funds are structured.

A separate $255,000 project to dredge between Colorado 47 and the Eighth Street bridge already is in the works. It would be funded by Pueblo County, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, the Fountain Creek district and the state.

For Colorado Springs, SDS is a 40-year solution to provide water both for future growth and redundancy for the major water infrastructure it already has in place. Earlier comments to commissioners from Colorado Springs officials indicated only about 5 million gallons per day initially would flow through the SDS pipeline to El Paso County. It has a capacity of 75 million gallons per day.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said warranties on the project kick in when testing on SDS is completed at the end of this month, however, so Colorado Springs also would like to see the pipeline up and running by next week.

SDS: Pueblo County and #Colorado Springs are still talking 1041 permit requirements

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo County and Colorado Springs continue to negotiate over the 1041 permit for Southern Delivery System, but there has been no resolution of issues regarding stormwater control.

“We’re still engaged in negotiations,” Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart told The Pueblo Chieftain this week. “We have made it clear that if we are able to pound out an agreement, it will be tentative and open to public review.”

Meanwhile, Pueblo West, an SDS partner, won’t jump into the fray.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers earlier this month laid out a plan to apply $450 million to stormwater projects on Fountain Creek and its tributaries over the next 20 years.

Many of those projects would benefit Pueblo County as well as Colorado Springs, and Pueblo County would have a say in prioritizing the projects, Suthers said.

The proposal is an attempt to make up for Colorado Springs’ decision to abolish its stormwater enterprise in 2009, and its failure to comply with state and federal stormwater permits.

Pueblo County officials publicly were cool to Suthers’ suggestion, pointing out that negotiations on several points have been underway for nearly a year. Meanwhile, Pueblo City Council and the Pueblo Board of Water Works adopted resolutions supporting Pueblo County in negotiations.

This week, Pueblo West Metropolitan District board member Mark Carmel attempted to get the board to weigh in on the negotiations, but other members of the board declined.

Carmel said the 20-year timeline proposed by Colorado Springs is too short and Pueblo could still be at risk from flooding on Fountain Creek caused by growth to the north. His proposal was not considered by the board.

As a result, Carmel is exploring his own candidacy for Pueblo County commissioner for the principle purpose to “influence a true agreement on SDS.”

“We need leaders who will not roll over and play dead to Colorado Springs; leaders who must remain vigilant to achieve a permanent solution to flooding before new SDS water magnifies the problem,” Carmel said.

Jerry Martin, president of the Pueblo West board, said he is generally satisfied with how Colorado Springs has treated Pueblo West in SDS.

Pueblo West became part of the SDS project in 2007, agreeing to take water from it rather than directly from the Arkansas River below Pueblo Dam as a backup to its own pipeline from the dam and as a way to increase capacity of its water system. The agreement also designated Colorado Springs as the lead negotiator for SDS.

Pueblo West has used its connection to SDS twice, once last summer and the other beginning last month, as a way to get water. Agreements signed in relation to that settled issues among Pueblo West, Pueblo County and the city of Pueblo related to water issues, but not the 1041 permit with Colorado Springs.

“Colorado Springs has performed well during the disaster last summer and now,” said Martin. “We remain silent, because we’re not involved with Fountain Creek flooding. This current resolution is between Pueblo County and Colorado Springs.”

Southern Delivery System map via Colorado Springs Utilities
Southern Delivery System map via Colorado Springs Utilities

Pueblo West official tells Pueblo County to renegotiate the SDS 1041 permit

Pueblo West
Pueblo West

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A Pueblo West Metropolitan District board member wants Pueblo County commissioners to renegotiate the 1041 agreement for the Southern Delivery System.

“There are numerous, fatal flaws in the present 1041 agreement; too many to mention,” Pueblo West board member Mark Carmel told the Pueblo Board of Water Works this week. “I respectfully suggest that the 1041 permit must be renegotiated to create a true agreement.”

It’s a significant development because Pueblo West is a partner in the SDS water pipeline project, and has already benefited from an emergency use of SDS last summer.

The metro board took a position on Jan. 12 that its water should not be held hostage during the current SDS discussions, but Carmel made it clear that he was speaking as an individual at Tuesday’s water board meeting. The metro board will meet with Colorado Springs Utilities at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to address Carmel’s concerns.

Both the water board and Pueblo City Council are pondering resolutions requiring more action on stormwater in relation to SDS. Pueblo County commissioners are in the process of determining 1041 compliance on stormwater and other issues in the permit.

The Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District has requested action by the Bureau of Reclamation under the federal SDS contract and by the Pueblo County commissioners under the 1041 permit to delay SDS until a stable source of stormwater funding is found.

Carmel, a former Pueblo County engineer, said he has seen firsthand the damage Fountain Creek causes in Pueblo. He wants to make sure Colorado Springs has adequate stormwater control measures in place.

“As Colorado Springs’ partner in the SDS project, I believe perhaps Pueblo West bears the most local responsibility to ensure SDS is implemented in such a way that the city of Pueblo does not get wiped out by floodwaters, in our name, if we stand by and do nothing,” Carmel said.

He said politicians’ current assurance of $19 million in annual funding for stormwater improvements in Colorado Springs is not adequate because future councils could easily reverse the action.

“A 10-year intergovernmental agreement is not worth the paper it is written on under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, because it may be canceled at any budget cycle,” he said.

Carmel said the 1041 agreement should be renegotiated to avoid future misunderstandings.

“Now is the time to ask Colorado Springs to cooperatively renegotiate the terms of the SDS 1041 permit to ensure that it is a win-win deal for both communities,” Carmel said. “Any deal that fails to prevent flooding in Pueblo — through a permanent funding mechanism that cannot change with each election — is not a win for Pueblo.”

Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co, Aspen and the #ColoradoRiver District reach deal

From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

The city of Aspen and Front Range water interests have reached a compromise 20 years in the making that allows more water to be sent east when the spring runoff is plentiful, in exchange for bolstering flows when the Roaring Fork River is running low in the fall. The deal is between the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., which operates transbasin diversion tunnels underneath Independence Pass, and the city of Aspen and the Colorado River District, which works to protect water rights on the Western Slope.

The deal, which has its roots in a 1994 water court application from Twin Lakes that sought to increase diversions during the runoff in high-snowpack years. It will leave 40 acre-feet of water in Grizzly Reservoir when Twin Lakes exercises its rights under the 1994 proposal. That water will be stored in the 500-acre-foot reservoir and released into the Roaring Fork for about three weeks in late summer, when seasonal flows are at their lowest. The water must be called for and released in the same year it was stored.

Grizzly Reservoir, located about 8 miles up Lincoln Creek Road near the Continental Divide, is a component of the transbasin-diversion system. A tunnel underneath the reservoir channels water underneath the mountain to the south fork of Lake Creek in the Arkansas River basin, on the other side of the pass.

Additionally, under the deal, the River District will have the right to store 200 acre-feet of water in Grizzly Reservoir and can call for up to 150 acre feet of that water in a year. Importantly, that 200 acre-feet can be stored long-term in the reservoir until it is called for by the River District, which manages water rights across the Western Slope.

Another 600 acre-feet will be provided to the River District for seasonal storage in Twin Lakes Reservoir, also on the east side of Independence Pass. The district will then trade and exchange that water with various entities, which could lead to more water staying on the Western Slope that would otherwise be diverted through other transbasin tunnels.

Twin Lakes diverts an average of 46,000 acre-feet a year from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork and sends it to Colorado Springs and other Front Range cities. The city of Colorado Springs owns 55 percent of the shares in the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., entities in Pueblo own 23 percent, entities in Pueblo West own 12 percent, and Aurora owns 5 percent.

Aspen and the River District intend to cooperatively use the stored water in Grizzly Reservoir to boost late-summer flows in the Roaring Fork as it winds through Aspen proper.

Water already flowing
The stretch of the Roaring Fork River below the Salvation Ditch on Stillwater Drive typically runs below environmentally sound flows each year for about eight weeks, according to city officials. And given that this spring saw a high run-off, the three parties to the agreement managed some water this year as if the deal was already signed.

“At the close of the current water year (which ended the last day of September), Twin Lakes started making releases of some of the water stored for the River District, followed by release of the 40 acre-feet, as directed by Aspen and the River District,” Phil Overeynder, a special projects engineer for the city, wrote in an Oct. 3 memo to city council. “These releases had the effect of increasing flows in the Roaring Fork through the Aspen reach by approximately 20 percent and will last for approximately a three-week period at the end of the lowest flow conditions of the year.”

Overeynder added that “both Aspen and the River District believe that this agreement, while not perfect, is of real and meaningful benefit to the Roaring Fork.”

Aspen City Council approved the agreement on its consent calendar during a regular council meeting on Monday. The agreement is on the River District’s Tuesday meeting agenda, and Twin Lakes approved it last month.

The deal still needs to be accepted by Pitkin County and the Salvation Ditch Co. in order to satisfy all of the details of the water court’s 2001 approval of the 1994 water rights application.

Junior and senior rights
In addition to its junior 1994 water right, Twin Lakes also holds a senior 1936 water right that allows it to divert up to 68,000 acre-feet in a single year and up to 570,000 acre-feet in a 10-year period.

Originally, the water diverted by Twin Lakes was used to grow sugar beets to make sugar, but it is now primarily used to meet the needs of people living on the Front Range.

The 1936 water right still has some lingering restrictions in high-water years, according to Kevin Lusk, an engineer with Colorado Springs Utilities who serves as the president of the board of the private Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. Under its 1936 right, when there is plenty of water in the Arkansas River and the Twin Lakes Reservoir is full, Twin Lakes is not allowed to divert water, even though it is physically there to divert, Lusk explained. So in 1994 it filed in water court for a new water right without the same restrictions so it could divert more water to the east. It was dubbed the “Twin Junior,” water right.

The city of Aspen and the River District objected in court to the “Twin Junior” and the agreement approved Monday is a long-delayed outcome of the case.

Aspen claimed that if Twin Lakes diverted more water in big-water years, the Roaring Fork wouldn’t enjoy the benefits of the high water, including flooding the Stillwater section and replenishing groundwater supplies. That process, the city argued, helps the river in dry times.

“We don’t necessarily agree with the theory behind it,” Lusk said of the city’s claim, but added that Twin Lakes agreed to the deal as part of settlement negotiations.

And since 2014 turned out to be a high-water year, Twin Lakes exercised its right to divert water under its 1994 Twin Junior right, and worked cooperatively with Aspen and the River District to release 40-acre feet of “mitigation water” as described in the pending deal.

The new agreement between the city, Twin Lakes and the River District is in addition to another working arrangement between Twin Lakes and Aspen related to the Fryingpan-Arkansas diversion project, which diverts water from the headwaters of the Fryingpan River.

That agreement provides 3,000 acre-feet of water each year to be released by Twin Lakes into the main stem of the Roaring Fork beneath a dam near Lost Man Campground, normally at a rate of 3 to 4 cubic feet per second.

More Twin Lakes coverage here.

Pueblo West Utilities Board members and staff are trying to make sense of SDS MOU with Colorado Springs

Pueblo West
Pueblo West

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo West is pondering whether it even needs to turn on Southern Delivery System early after the metro district board waded through the process that led up to a controversial memorandum of understanding that would allow that to happen. The MOU apparently represents years of complex negotiations between Colorado Springs attorneys.

Three board members, Chairman Lew Quigley, Mark Carmel and Judy Leonard, voted on May 27 to talk about the MOU in open session, rather than behind closed doors.

But at Tuesday’s metro board meeting — devoted solely to water issues — board members and staff wrangled over what the document means and how it should be drafted.

The MOU could pave the way for Pueblo West to begin using a new 36-inch pipeline from the north outlet on Pueblo Dam ahead of schedule. It’s needed because Pueblo West is reaching the limits of its current delivery line, and to provide redundancy if anything should happen to its sole supply source, said Manager Jack Johnston. Johnston said the MOU was merely conceptual, and the argued that details of it needed to be explained in executive session.

“This is really our bus to drive,” Johnston said.

Carmel countered that a more open discussion in public among Pueblo West, Colorado Springs needed.

Pueblo County commissioners and attorneys objected to details of the agreement which required Pueblo West to obtain approval of 1041 permit conditions, saying Colorado Springs is attempting to bully the metro district.

“This was presented to me as an ultimatum. … I suspect this new board will go back to the drawing board to give you a new direction,” Carmel said. He wanted to delay action until a full board could act — board member Jerry Martin was not at Tuesday’s meeting.

Quigley objected to discussing the agreement in executive said that a meeting behind closed doors was needed to explain how the agreement related to several other lawsuits in order to protect Pueblo West’s legal position.

Board member Barbara Bernard favored discussing such an agreement in executive session if necessary.

“Yes, I want to know how we got to this point,” she said. “I need as much counsel as we can have.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Utilities was trying to make sure the clock wouldn’t start ticking if Pueblo West got water early under a controversial agreement.

That’s how Mark Pifher, permit manager for Southern Delivery System, explained the situation Wednesday to the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District during his update on SDS progress.

The agreement was to have been discussed in executive session on May 27 by the Pueblo West Metropolitan District, but newly elected board member Mark Carmel objected to talking about it behind closed doors, claiming the agreement would hold Pueblo West “hostage.”

The issue escalated when Pueblo County commissioners and attorneys claimed Colorado Springs was using bully tactics to pressure Pueblo West into gaining county approval of 1041 permit conditions from the county.

“Pueblo West wanted delivery of the water as soon as possible,” Pifher said. “The concern we had was that if the water is delivered to Pueblo West, will all the other conditions be expedited?”

Among those conditions is the beginning of $50 million payments to the Fountain Creek District and other Fountain Creek issues. Utilities and the Lower Ark have been in negotiations over Fountain Creek issues for the past nine years.

“What we’re asking is that Pueblo West go to the commissioners so those other conditions will not be triggered,” Pifher said.

The agreement also contained a provision that would require Pueblo West to stop using the new pipeline if Colorado Springs did not meet SDS conditions.

On Tuesday, the Pueblo West board discussed the agreement with Manager Jack Johnston and attorney Harley Gifford.

Carmel and board President Lew Quigley wanted an open discussion of the agreement. Johnston said it had been negotiated over several years by staff and attorneys. Gifford said it is tied to other legal issues that need to be discussed in executive session.

The 36-inch water line from the north outlet is nearly complete and would provide redundancy for the existing 24-inch line Pueblo West has connected to the south outlet. The new line would provide up to 18 million gallons per day in addition to the 12-million-gallon capacity of the existing line.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

“This proposed MOU is a heavy-handed tactic by [Colorado Springs Utilities]” — Ray Petros

Pueblo West
Pueblo West

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo County officials believe Colorado Springs Utilities is trying to pressure Pueblo West for help in meeting 1041 permit requirements for the Southern Delivery System. After obtaining a copy of a draft memorandum of understanding that was to be considered by the Pueblo West metro board in executive session last month, two commissioners and the county’s water attorney say it’s the same type of coercion Utilities tried to exert on the county earlier.

“It’s bully tactics. I think it’s terrible and totally inappropriate,” said Terry Hart, chairman of the county commissioners. “This is the second time in a couple of months where Utilities is trying to negotiate approval of 1041 conditions. In this case, it pits Pueblo West against Pueblo County, when there’s no good reason to do it.”

Commissioner Sal Pace agreed: “Whether Pueblo West has access to its own water has nothing to do with conditions on Fountain Creek.”

Water attorney Ray Petros was equally blunt: “This proposed MOU is a heavy-handed tactic by Utilities to withhold water deliveries to Pueblo West as a lever against the county in the event the county had to consid­er suspending the SDS permit.”

Pueblo West has not approved the MOU, and Jack Johnston, the metro district manager, portrayed it as a working document “at the staff and attorney level.”

However, newly elected Pueblo West board member Mark Carmel objected at his first official meeting to considering the deal in executive session. He was backed by Chairman Lew Quigley and board member Judy Leonard.

Johnston said a document for public consideration would be ready for discussion in open session, probably in mid-June.

But the document provided to The Chieftain by Carmel, and shared with the county, asks Pueblo West to get the county to sign off on several conditions of the 1041 permit before Pueblo West can turn on SDS.

Among other things, the agreement instructs Pueblo West to obtain written confirmation from Pueblo County that four politically charged conditions of the county’s 1041 permit have been met or “will not be triggered . . . by use of SDS facilities.”

Those conditions include the payment of $50 million to a special district for Fountain Creek flood control, the Pueblo Arkansas River flow program, the adaptive management scenario for Fountain Creek and Colorado Springs stormwater management. Each of those has led to complicated political negotiations or even court cases for Colorado Springs. Pueblo West has been in court with Pueblo County over the flow program.

Pueblo County ran into the same tactics when it asked Utilities to release interest money from the $50 million early to fund dam studies on Fountain Creek, Hart and Pace noted.

“In any event, holding Pueblo West hostage casts Springs’ Utilities as a bully,” Petros said. “It’s certainly counterproductive to a cooperative approach for addressing environmental mitigation of the SDS Project.”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Pueblo West: Metropolitan board approve $40,000 for pipeline easement costs

Pueblo West
Pueblo West

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

The Pueblo West Metropolitan District board took another step last week toward saving its precious water resources from evaporation. The board voted unanimously Tuesday to fund $40,000 worth of appraisals for its proposed Wildhorse Pipeline easement. The valuations will help the board reach agreement with property owners.

The board proposes to build a roughly 7-mile pipeline to prevent the estimated 70 percent loss of water due to evaporation or seepage as it is discharged from the Pueblo West treatment plant into Wildhorse Creek, where it is measured for water credit.

“If we can get a good portion of that 70 percent back, it would add up to roughly 1,000 to 1,200 acre-feet of water — enough to supply 2,400 to 3,600 homes annually. It’s a lot of water,” said Jack Johnston, district manager.

The district will need to secure 100 easements, about half of which are through Pueblo city-owned property. Because the district has not been able to reach agreement with the city of Pueblo, it filed a lawsuit in December seeking the right of eminent domain to condemn the property it needs for “the greater public purpose,” Johnston said.

“Water conservation is a statewide interest. We have just about 11,000 water taps but we are not done growing,” Johnston said.

In 2013, Pueblo West received 49 new home permit applications. Johnston said the district also would like to have more water available should a new manufacturing business require significant water.

“To add to our water portfolio for future growth is a solid investment for a community. We also are able to lease any excess water we have,” Johnston explained.

Johnston said the filing of the district court lawsuit was not a step Pueblo West leaders wanted to take. He said he still is hopeful of reaching an agreement with Pueblo officials before the case is heard June 12-13.

“For two government agencies to fight each other does not make sense to me,” said Lew Quigley, board member. “The taxpayers come out the losers.”

Meanwhile, Pueblo County has updated their 1041 regulations, partially in response to Pueblo West’s project. Here’s a report from The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

City Council adopted an arsenal of new land-use regulations last week that gives it more voice over the routes of new water pipelines, power plants, transmission lines and even new sewage treatment plants. The unanimous vote came Jan. 13 even as the city and the Pueblo West Metropolitan District are at odds over the route of the Wildhorse Reuse Pipeline Project.

That long-sought project would be a return-flow pipeline from the Pueblo West sewage treatment plant to the Arkansas River below Pueblo Dam. The project has been on the drawing board for several years with agreement of Colorado Springs, Aurora, the Pueblo Board of Water Works — all players that have cooperated on a program to maximize flows in the river.

Pueblo city planners have challenged the proposed route of the pipeline, which Pueblo West officials want to acquire through eminent domain, including some city-owned land. The metro district filed a suit in Pueblo District Court last month to force Pueblo to comply.

On the advice of new City Attorney Dan Kogovsek, council adopted the broader land-use powers. They are commonly called 1041 regulations because they are named after a 1974 law granting local governments a voice over projects that cross multiple jurisdictions.

While Pueblo County attorney, Kogovsek was involved in enforcing the county’s 1041 regulations on Colorado Springs over the route for the Southern Delivery System water pipeline north from Pueblo Dam.

Kogovsek told council it should exercise more authority over projects that cross city lands or will require the extension of city services. He mentioned the Pueblo West pipeline project as well as the possible development of Pueblo Springs Ranch — a 24,000-acre proposed annexation north of the city.

Council approved the new regulations without much debate. Councilman Chris Kaufman asked for assurances the city’s broader power would not restrict business development and Kogovsek said it wouldn’t.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Restoration: Pueblo West is working with Chaffee County to revegetate the Hill Ranch buy and dry property

Hill Ranch photo via Colorado Central Magazine -- Mike Rosso
Hill Ranch photo via Colorado Central Magazine — Mike Rosso

From The Mountain Mail (James Redmond):

After receiving information from soil tests, Pueblo West officials will meet with Chaffee County officials to develop the next steps for revegetation and weed control efforts at the Hill Ranch, next to U.S. 285 north of Centerville. Alan Leak, a consultant for Pueblo West from RESPEC Water & Natural Resources, met with Chaffee County commissioners during their regular meeting Tuesday.

Pueblo West had soil samples from the Hill Ranch sent off for analysis, Leak said. The analysis showed that seed mixes used by Pueblo West more than a year ago “were not suitable” to soil acidic levels at the Hill Ranch. He said he does not have the complete analysis yet.

Larry Walker, Chaffee County Weed Department supervisor, said he would like to see the complete results once Leak has them.

From the soil analysis, Leak said they will get recommendations on what seeds to use on the property. Once he gets that information and the full report, which should happen by the end of the year, he will meet with people in Chaffee County and develop a plan for next year.

Chaffee County Commissioner Dennis Giese said he would like to have Leak meet with the commissioners at their February work session to discuss the plan.

For next year, instead of just trying two test sites with the same idea, Pueblo West might try “a bunch of different things” and see what works. That way if one idea does not work, they do not waste the whole year, he said.

Pueblo West purchased the Hill Ranch water rights, and part of the purchase conditions require the municipality to revegetate the land with local grass before it can use the water right, county officials said previously.

Leak said he last met with the county commissioners during the summer, when they discussed Pueblo West’s summer and fall plan for the Hill Ranch. At the time he told commissioners about a proposed plan for weed control and two sites for test crops. He explained a process consisting of tilling two test sites, planting a sterile sorghum and mowing the property to keep weeds down. Each of the two approximately 50-acre test sites was tilled to mix peat in with the soil and planted with a sterile sorghum. Sorghum was planted to help reduce the acidity and build root mass in the soil. The efforts resulted in “a fair sorghum crop” at the test sites, Leak said. They also found that “in most parts the peat is not as deep as we thought,” he said. The test sites had irrigation water run onto them, about 1,500 acre-feet, Leak said. So far Pueblo West “has expended $115,000” this year on its Hill Ranch efforts, he said.

Walker said, considering the work he has done to help with the Hill Ranch revegetation and weed control efforts, he wonders if the county should perhaps get compensated as a consultant.

“Weed control was somewhat successful,” Leak said. The Hill Ranch was mowed three times, and the area had some selective grazing.

“The guy mowing did a great job – a month too late,” Frank McMurry, a rancher who lives near the Hill Ranch, said at the meeting. “We have a monumental weed problem, due to the timing.” When it comes to mowing to keep weeds down, timing matters, he said.

“We probably got up here a little late a few times,” Leak said. However, Pueblo West did make an effort to get Hill Ranch mowed. Next year, they want to get to the mowing earlier, he said.

Because the weather can change and affect the growth of weeds without much warning, McMurry said he thinks Pueblo West should hire someone local to monitor and manage the Hill Ranch site, not someone from Walsenburg. A local person could stay apprised of the conditions and know what they mean for growth on the site, Commissioner Dave Potts said.

Here’s some background from Ron Sering writing for Colorado Central Magazine. Here’s an excerpt:

Rights to irrigate the area known today as Hill Ranch predate Chaffee County by more than a decade. Decreed in 1868, the rights permitted diversion of water for agriculture and ranching. And so it remained for more than a century, even after sale of the rights by the Hill family to Western Water Rights Limited Liability Partnership in 1986.

That all changed with the subsequent sale of the rights to the Pueblo West Metropolitan District (PWMD) in 2008. The PWMD, home to nearly 30,000 thirsty people, needed the rights to fuel a growth rate that remains among the fastest in the state. The rights are significant, totaling nearly 1,900 acre feet of water. An acre foot totals nearly 326,000 gallons. Under the decree, the rights would convert from agricultural to municipal. Included in the terms was the cessation of irrigation activities. The land would be dried up and restored to its pre-irrigation state.

The irrigation made growth possible for more water-loving vegetation, including aspen and cottonwood trees, and Russian thistle, a non-native species also known as tumbleweed. Under the rights transfer, the intrusive weeds must be removed and native grasses restored.

PWMD contracted with Denver-based WRC Engineering to perform the dry-up. The plan was to cease irrigation to dry up the land, defoliate the intrusive species and minimize windblown weeds and dust, followed by the introduction of a prescribed seed mixture from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

More restoration/reclamation coverage here.

Southern Delivery System update: North outlet works ready to roll, most of the pipe is in the ground

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A major water pipeline through Pueblo County has moved quickly since construction began two years ago. A connection at Pueblo Dam is complete, all but a fraction of Southern Delivery System pipeline is in the ground and work will start soon on the Juniper Pump Station, Colorado Springs Utilities officials told Pueblo County Commissioners last week.

“There has been significant progress on construction in Pueblo County,” said John Fredell, SDS program director for Utilities. That includes more than 18 miles of pipeline through Pueblo West and the northern part of Pueblo County on Walker Ranches.

Under the 1041 permit, Colorado Springs also has committed to spend at least $145 million in mitigation. About $42 million of that has been spent so far.

Commissioners are reviewing Colorado Springs commitments made under the 2009 1041 permit. Terry Hart, Sal Pace and Liane “Buffie” McFadyen all joined the board this year, and were not on the board when the permit was issued. Friday’s meeting was an opportunity for them to evaluate SDS compliance.

SDS also benefits Pueblo West, by more than doubling its water supply capacity and giving it another way to deliver water from Pueblo Dam.

“On our own, it would have been difficult to accomplish this,” Pueblo West Manager Jack Johnston told commissioners. “It’s been a $6 million cost to Pueblo West of a $30 million project.” Pueblo West now has a line that delivers 12 million gallons per day from the South Outlet Works. When SDS is complete, it will have another 18 million-gallon line from the new North Outlet Works. “Everything they committed to has been exceeded,” Johnston said.

Pueblo County staff has received quarterly and annual updates on compliance with the 1041 regulations, said Keith Riley, deputy program director for SDS. During the four-hour hearing there were some complaints from Pueblo West landowners about the way they have been treated as the pipeline crossed their property. But Riley pointed out that condemnation of property was a last resort, and some of the purchases of houses along the route provided materials for Habitat for Humanity and training opportunities for firefighters. Any large project is bound to leave some people unhappy, he said. “My heart goes out to those who have been (adversely) affected,” Riley told commissioners. “Our staff does care about landowners and we plan to respond to each point.”

Hart, who chairs the commission, said the county plans to see that Colorado Springs lives up to its commitment. “We’ve directed staff to match the comments we heard today with the conditions in the 1041 agreement and see if we can settle the differences,” Hart said.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

While Colorado Springs officials painted a serene picture of compliance with Pueblo County 1041 permit conditions, local landowners offered different viewpoints. After listening to a presentation addressing major points of the Southern Delivery System by Colorado Springs Utilities staff, several people took issue with the rosy outlook.

Dwain Maxwell plopped down a 6-inchthick stack of paper and explained how a team of Colorado Springs lawyers outflanked him in court over what he says is a low-ball property appraisal for an easement on his property in Pueblo West.

LaVetta Kay told about how her complaints of workers trespassing on her property were disregarded by SDS management.

Engineer Laurie Clark showed photos of how large areas of pipeline revegetation areas on Walker Ranches have been washed out by relatively light summer storms.

Jane Rhodes talked about how unchecked flows on Fountain Creek continue to wash acres of her ranch land downstream. “I only have two acres, but they’re just as important to me as Gary Walker’s thousands of acres,” Maxwell told the board.

A Pueblo district court jury awarded Maxwell only $1,850, rather than the $2,200 Colorado Springs Utilities first offered him or the $18,500 his own appraiser valued the property. Commission Chairman Terry Hart asked Keith Riley, assistant project director for SDS, why Utilities did not pay Maxwell the amount it originally offered. “What I worry about when I hear about this is that Mr. Maxwell was not properly represented,” Hart said.

“The court ordered us to pay $1,850,” Riley replied.

Maxwell said the construction led to dust and disruption. Revegetation has created 4-foot tall weeds due to overwatering, but little grass. “Their promises have not been followed,” Maxwell said. Construction has created problems for Kay as well.

“I get no communication,” she said. “There’s no accountability. They disrespect me and disregard my property.”

Clark’s photos countered Utilities slides that portrayed orderly green­ belts along the pipeline route. Instead, large ravines that cross the pipeline route were gouged out, ruining revegetation that had begun. Utilities is aware of the problems and is working with Walker to solve them, said Mark Pifher, permit manager.

Rhodes’ problems relate to stormwater control, a long-standing problem on Fountain Creek that she believes will be made worse by SDS. “With all of the water coming from the north, when SDS gets done and in full force, we possibly won’t have any farms on Fountain Creek,” Rhodes said.

Commissioners directed staff to compile complaints according to conditions Colorado Springs agreed to in the 1041 permit and determine if they can be resolved. “This gives us an opportunity to address any issues out there and see where we are headed,” Hart said.

Colorado Springs indicated it would work with Pueblo County in resolving issues. “We take our obligations seriously and are sure that we could meet every one of them,” Utilities CEO Jerry Forte told him.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Southern Delivery System construction has provided a shot in the arm to Pueblo County’s economy, commissioners heard during a meeting last week on the progress of SDS. “There has been a positive economic benefit to Pueblo,” said John Bowen, president of ASI Constructors.

The Pueblo West company won a $50 million contract for construction of the North Outlet Works at Pueblo Dam and some of the pipeline associated with SDS. “We’ve added employees during the recession,” Bowen said. “We are part of balancing the public trust with environmental concerns.”

It is important to ASI and Pueblo County for SDS to stay on course for its 2016 completion, because that will speed up work on Fountain Creek. ASI would be among bidders for future dam projects, he said.

Sherri Weber of M&S Trucking in Boone also spoke of the economic benefits. The company has hauled materials to construction sites for nearly two years under its SDS contract.

Overall, Colorado Springs Utilities said it has spent $60 million with more than 100 Pueblo County contractors. The total spent through the end of July on SDS construction was $382 million.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo County commissioners Friday looked at a menu of issues ranging from economic benefits to environmental damage surrounding construction of the Southern Delivery System pipeline through the county. Hanging over the discussion like a storm cloud, however, was whether Colorado Springs is serious about reining in flood control, as its council once promised. “In light of the recent flooding in Colorado Springs, this is a timely meeting that brings up concerns that have been with us for a long time,” Commissioner Sal Pace said. “The low point was in 2009, with the elimination of the stormwater enterprise.”

It was a repeated theme throughout a four-hour meeting. Resolving Fountain Creek issues played a big role in years of discussions that led to Bureau of Reclamation approval of the $940 million SDS project.

The 1041 permit itself does not require any level of spending or even that a stormwater enterprise has to be in place. It only requires that return flows from SDS do not exacerbate flows, said Mark Pifher, SDS permit manager. That position is being contested by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, which this week decided to sue the Bureau of Reclamation, which issued a favorable record of decision for SDS based on the existence of a stormwater enterprise.

At Friday’s meeting, Jay Winner, Lower Ark general manager, asked Colorado Springs officials why council chose to drop the stormwater enterprise in 2009 while ignoring the main goal of the 2009 Proposition 300, which was to elimi­nate Utilities transfers to the city’s general fund. The move came after Springs voters defeated a 2008 issue to make stormwater payments voluntary. “As elected officials, we felt there was a message from voters that the stormwater fee should be stopped,” said Colorado Springs Councilwoman Jan Martin, the only council member still serving who was on the board in 2009. She voted to repeal the enterprise.

Martin is working on a stormwater task force that plans to put a ballot issue for a stormwater fee or tax on the November 2014 ballot in Colorado Springs and El Paso County. What appears on the ballot depends in part on a prioritization of needs ordered by Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach, who has not cooperated with the task force.

Dorothy Butcher, a former state representative from Pueblo, questioned how much of current stormwater spending in Colorado Springs, reported at $46 million, is addressing the issue of reducing Pueblo flood impacts. “With your potential 2014 ballot initiative, if it’s turned down, what source of revenue will you use?”

Martin said the council would transfer money from other sources, as it is doing now, adding that she is confident voters will support a ballot issue that clearly outlines its purpose, such as last year’s ballot measure to continue a transportation tax.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Pueblo West Metro District approves 8% increase in water rates and a 13.5% increase in sewer rates

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From The Pueblo West View (Christing Ina Casillas):

Water and wastewater rates…will change come Jan. 1 for Pueblo West residents now that the budget process has been completed and approved unanimously by the Pueblo West Metropolitan District Board of Directors.

The 2013 proposed budget calls for an increase in both water and wastewater rates. A rate study presented to the board in early 2012 anticipated an eight percent increase in water rates and a 13.5 percent increase in wastewater rates, according to the budget.

Four new staff members will be employed in the Water and Wastewater Department and will consist of three utility workers and a water conservation/pretreatment coordinator. The coordinator is tasked to develop, implement and evaluate conservation measure and programs, develop manageable water-use plan for high water consumption customers, among other duties, according to the budget.

Along with water and wastewater, the district approved capital projects in this year’s budget, including $1 million for the Southern Delivery System, $1.8 million for river pump station connection to SDS, $4.2 million for the construction of the Wild Horse pipeline and $1.5 for the completion of the construction of the bio-solid stabilization pons in the wastewater enterprise fun.

More infrastructure coverage here.

The Pueblo West Metropolitan District Board of Directors approves raw water rate increase

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Christine Ina Casillas):

The Pueblo West Metropolitan District Board of Directors approved a raw water rate increase and are in discussions with cost options that include $1.15 with Southern Delivery Systems costs spread over 10 years, $152 with 2011 actual SDS costs or $1.73 with 2011 actual SDS costs, including Hill Ranch and Wildhorse Pipeline. According to a Pueblo West Metropolitan Dsitrict water and wastewater rate study, the rate revenue needed to meet revenue requirements, the study showed.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Southern Delivery System update

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Colorado Springs Utilities and some 13 property owners in Pueblo West are still dealing with respect to easements for the Southern Delivery System. Not everyone is happy with the situation, including the Pueblo County Commissioners. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Commissioners on Feb. 8 wrote a letter to SDS project Director John Fredell that pointed to conditions in the 1041 land-use permit requiring Colorado Springs to pay for a second appraisal if any landowner disagrees with the SDS appraisal. Colorado Springs is expected to discuss issues raised in the letter at the commissioners meeting at 9 a.m. today, said John Cordova, Pueblo County Commission chairman…

On Tuesday, Fredell told Colorado Springs City Council that Utilities had agreed to pay for second appraisals in any case, but Maxwell made a point of bringing up the letter from commissioners. Council members indicated they had copies of the letter as well. All three of the property owners spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting and said Colorado Springs had offered to pay for new appraisals only in the past few days, telling them that up until that time they were told the option wasn’t available…

Commissioners indicated Colorado Springs may not be in compliance with the land acquisition portion of the [1041 permit from Pueblo County]. In his reply to commissioners, Fredell said all of the concerns brought up by commissioners have been addressed. In the case of the action that already was filed, he said Utilities has tried for more than a year to contact the heirs of the deceased landowner…

This is the second time in recent months commissioners have contacted Colorado Springs about 1041 issues. In December, the commissioners asked Colorado Springs to pay almost $150,000 in legal fees for a Pueblo West lawsuit against the county over SDS issues. Colorado Springs declined to pay.

More coverage from Daniel Chaćon writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

A reluctant City Council authorized the use of eminent domain Tuesday to acquire 15 property easements in Pueblo West that Colorado Springs Utilities needs to build the 62-mile Southern Delivery System water pipeline. The council voted 7-1 to move forward with condemnation proceedings but instructed the city-owned utility to continue to negotiate with property owners until after appraisals on their land have been completed…

Despite a month of phone calls, letters and two group meetings with property owners to try to reach agreement, including an explanation on how the offers were developed, Utilities officials said the two sides were at an impasse. “We need to move forward,” Fredell said. “There has to be a point where we decide we can’t reach agreement.”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

[Colorado Springs City Council] voted 7-1 to proceed with eminent domain, believing Utilities staff has exhausted all other avenues to solve the problem. Even at that, Mayor Lionel Rivera questioned Project Director John Fredell after it was revealed that Colorado Springs could spend up to $5,000 to help settle disputes of easement payments as low as $1,550. “There has to be flexibility in the real estate manual,” Rivera said. “You, the project director, can use your discretion.”

Fredell earlier explained that 120 of 133 properties or easements in Pueblo West are under contract, with new settlements on Monday with 2 of the 15 holdouts. All of the remaining properties are for easements valued at $1,550-$5,000. While Utilities will continue to work with the remaining 13, Fredell said they appear to have reached a dead end. There has already been one condemnation filed, approved at a meeting last October. “I believe we’ve reached a point where we cannot agree on compensation with the remaining properties,” Fredell said.

More coverage of the city council meeting, and the opposition to SDS, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Councilman Tom Gallagher, who has been at odds with the rest of council for years over SDS, took the opportunity to call SDS, “The greatest boondoggle that’s ever been conceived by this community.” At one point Gallagher, who is running for mayor in the April election, called SDS Project Director John Fredell to task for not including options to locate the pipeline in a less disruptive manner during the Bureau of Reclamation’s Environmental Impact Statement that evaluated the project. Fredell started to defend the EIS process, which determined the ultimate route of the pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs, when Gallagher cut him off. “This is a case of you deciding where you wanted it to go,” Gallagher said.

Dwain Maxwell, a property owner in Pueblo West whose Kirkwood Drive property is likely to be condemned for an SDS easement, goaded council by saying they were in a hurry to wrap up land deals quickly because the makeup of the council could change dramatically in the April elections. There are nine candidates for a new position of strong mayor and 22 candidates for seven open council seats. “I know you’re trying to get this done before the first of April,” Maxwell said…

[Sean Paige] later said Colorado Springs has gone out of its way to make accommodations on all parts of SDS. The first phase of the project will cost $880 million, including more than $133 million in concessions during the Pueblo County 1041 process. Scheduled for completion in 2016, the project will cost ratepayers $2.3 billion over the next 40 years in financing.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Chaffee County: Pueblo West asks commissioners to wave 1041 regulations for waterworks projects

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From The Mountain Mail (Jessica Wierzbinski):

Proposed structures include an infiltration basin on the Frantz Ditch near U.S. 285 and three water level and/or flow measurement systems. The measurement systems would be installed on Gas Creek Ditch, at Willowdale Ditch headgate on Chalk Creek and on the Pioneer Ditch in Mesa Antero subdivision. The structures are required to allow Pueblo West to use water rights from the Hill Ranch. Pueblo West bought the rights in 2001 from Western Water Rights, LLP who acquired them from Hill Ranch owners in 1986. Commissioners directed Chaffee County personnel to review 1041 regulations to determine applicable requirements.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Southern Delivery System update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo West landowners who are unhappy with offers for easements as part of the Southern Delivery System have been unable to reach settlements with Colorado Springs. Next week, Colorado Springs Utilities is expected to report to City Council on the progress in dealing with holdouts on 15 of 133 properties it must acquire to build SDS…

Colorado Springs City Council told utilities to make another attempt to negotiate with Pueblo West property owners last month, and is scheduled to review progress at its meeting Tuesday. The city has offered residents payments for easements across part of their property. Landowners say the amount is too small for the inconvenience they expect to endure as SDS is being built…

Colorado Springs committed to use eminent domain only as a last resort in obtaining property or easements for SDS under its 1041 land-use permit with Pueblo County in 2009. Utilities wants to begin building the water pipeline from Pueblo Dam soon in order to meet a projected completion date in 2016. Last month, Dan Higgins, SDS construction delivery manager, said Colorado Springs will continue to work with landowners even if condemnation actions begin in court.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Arkansas River voluntary flow program

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

…the outfitters weren’t asking for any water. They just wanted it to come during the warm days of summer when tourism was at its peak. “What turned things around was the attitude of the Bureau of Reclamation, which in 1989-90 drained Twin Lakes for maintenance,” Dils said. The release during the summer months showed that water could be moved without damaging water rights. The details of how much water was enough for rafting or too much for fish had to be worked out.

Beginning in 1990, a voluntary flow agreement that balanced the needs of boaters and fishermen began, and it’s been renewed every year. It came a year after the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area was formed. Since the formation of the recreation area, the river has become the most heavily commercially rafted river in the world. The river has also been the site of the annual FIBArk boat races since 1949. “Colorado water law allowed for the water to be moved, and the agreement requires the state to replace the evaporative loss, so no one loses water,” Dils said.

Meanwhile the Pueblo Board of Water Works has approved the recent settlement between Pueblo County and Pueblo West in the lawsuit over the Pueblo Winter Flow Program. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“The water board’s staff is the one group that looks out for that stretch of the Arkansas River, from the dam to Fountain Creek,” said board member Jim Gardner. The agreement was important to the water board not only because it protects the flow program and puts on hold a Pueblo West plan to pump effluent into a wash that leads directly into Lake Pueblo, said Alan Hamel, executive director of the water board. “Importantly, for the entire Pueblo community, we’ve enhanced the flow program without disturbing the three-party and six-party agreements,” Hamel said.

He was referring to 2004 agreements that settled issues relating to SDS and the Preferred Storage Options Program. Those pacts also set up a program that maintains seasonal flows through Pueblo by curtailing exchanges.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Pueblo County plans to bill Colorado Springs a little over $148,000 for legal costs associated with the Southern Delivery System and the winter flow program

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Colorado Springs should have had this taken care of,” said Jeff Chostner, chairman of the Pueblo County commissioners. “We’re not happy about having to fight with our neighbors because Colorado Springs did not do their job.”

On Tuesday, Pueblo County commissioners and the Pueblo West Metropolitan District board approved a settlement agreement that would end the lawsuit by providing a road map to allow Pueblo West to recover more of the water it’s entitled to under exchanges.Colorado Springs Utilities and the Pueblo Board of Water Works also were part of negotiations and must approve the agreement as well.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Pueblo County and Pueblo West settle lawsuit over Arkansas River winter flow program

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Lawyers for both sides have reached agreement on language in the settlement, which will allow Pueblo West to receive more credit for return flows of treated wastewater down Wild Horse Dry Creek under the flow program. Pueblo County commissioners will consider the agreement this morning, while the Pueblo West metro district board will take it up at its meeting tonight. The details of the agreement have been hammered out for months and discussed in executive session by both boards. Other parties in the agreement are the Pueblo Board of Water Works, which will consider the agreement at its December meeting, and Colorado Springs Utilities.

The agreement would end a lawsuit filed by Pueblo West in 2009 over conditions imposed by Pueblo County commissioners in approving a 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System…

Pueblo West would be allowed to exchange water into Lake Pueblo under certain conditions even though its flows enter the Arkansas River about four miles downstream of Pueblo Dam, according to a draft of the agreement. Those flows are upstream of the Pueblo Whitewater Park, so may be counted toward meeting the city of Pueblo’s recreational in-channel diversion decree measurements, the document states. Colorado Springs Utilities agreed to provide up to 900 acre-feet annually in Lake Pueblo to Pueblo West through a contract exchange, or paper trade, of Pueblo West Water in Twin Lakes. Colorado Springs may deliver water directly from Twin Lakes through its Homestake Pipeline. If Pueblo West’s water is delivered to Lake Pueblo via the Arkansas River, it is subject to a 10 percent transit loss. In return, Pueblo West would withdraw a state application to exchange return flows through a pumpback into the golf course wash that flows directly into Lake Pueblo. The plan was discussed in the past two years and met opposition from the Pueblo Area Council of Governments, with the sole exception of Pueblo West. Pueblo West intends to construct a pipeline down Wild Horse Dry Creek that would increase the amount of water it exchanges, and the other parties would support the plan in any PACOG, state health department and water court applications.

More Pueblo West coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Pueblo County commissioners make offer to settle Pueblo West lawsuit over facilities

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The settlement agreement was worked out last month by attorneys for Pueblo County, Pueblo West and other water agencies as a way to settle a lawsuit brought by Pueblo West in District Court in April 2009.
In the lawsuit, Pueblo West claimed it would lose water over time if forced to comply with conditions in the county’s 1041 permit that would allow the Southern Delivery System to be built.

In the settlement agreement, the county, Colorado Springs Utilities and the Pueblo Board of Water Works would allow Pueblo West to maximize return flows down Wild Horse Creek through a pipeline return. In return, Pueblo West would shelve its plan for a pumpback into Lake Pueblo through a wash behind the golf course…

Commissioners acted on the resolution Monday to preserve both the Pueblo flow management program created under 2004 intergovernmental agreements and Pueblo West’s participation in the SDS, according to the resolution.

Pueblo West is expected to take up the agreement on Aug. 24, said Director Jerry Martin. “Conceptually, we’re on board with it, but we haven’t heard it at a public meeting,” Martin said. “The lawyers have been preparing it, since there are more parties involved than just Pueblo County and Pueblo West.”

Meanwhile not all property owners along the SDS right-of-way have signed agreements with Colorado Springs Utilities. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Maxwells were offered $2,100 by Colorado Springs Utilities for the easement on the back of the property, a sum they consider too small when thinking about the noise and dust construction will bring. The cleanup, upkeep and taxes on the property will still be their responsibility. “They don’t want to work with us,” Helen Maxwell said. “They think $2,100 is enough for us to suffer the inconvenience.”[…]

“My concern is that there is such a vacancy of property in Pueblo West that we’re going to lose value,” said Pam Williams, who doesn’t intend to sell the easement at the price she was offered and is now being told Colorado Springs City Council could begin condemnation procedures in September. The homeowners were sent letters saying they have until Wednesday to settle or risk legal action. They feel like they’ve been picked off, since Utilities rejected the Maxwell’s suggestion for a joint meeting.

[Darlene Garcia, land acquisition manager for Colorado Springs Utilities] said condemnation through eminent domain is a last resort, but will be used if settlements can’t be reached. “We have to make our construction schedule and that requires a clear right of way for the pipeline proposal,” Garcia said.

Pueblo County: Pueblo West and the county reach accord on Pueblo flow management participation

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Attorneys for both sides in the case, along with the Pueblo Board of Water Works and Colorado Springs, reached the settlement Friday, Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner said. It still has to be approved by the Pueblo West and Pueblo County boards…

Under the settlement, Pueblo West would drop its lawsuit against Pueblo County, filed last year after Pueblo County required participation in the 2004 Pueblo flow management program as a condition for the Southern Delivery System, Chostner said. The Pueblo water board was involved because it objected to Pueblo West’s plan to pump treated effluent into a wash behind the golf course that empties into Lake Pueblo. Colorado Springs is the lead partner in the SDS project. “It’s good for everyone involved,” Chostner said. “It’s especially good for the City of Pueblo because it maintains flows for the Arkansas River.”[…]

Under the most likely alternative, Pueblo West would agree to use a gravity-flow pipeline down Wild Horse Dry Creek, putting a plan to pump back sewer flows into the golf course wash on hold. Currently, treated flows simply run down the creek, which costs Pueblo West some of the credit it would get from return flows. Pueblo West water is largely imported from the Colorado River basin, so the community is entitled to reuse it to extinction. However, the large transit loss on Wild Horse Dry Creek reduces the yield.

More Pueblo West coverage here and here.

Pueblo Area Council of Governments denies Pueblo West’s request to discharge effluent into tributary of Lake Pueblo

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Pueblo Area Council of Governments voted 8-2 to deny a change in the county’s regulations under Section 208 of the Clean Water Act. Pueblo West and Colorado City representatives voted in the minority. In October, PACOG voted 11-1 against a permit for Pueblo West’s plan for a pumpback project to return flows from the sewer plant to the golf course wash because it did not conform to the county’s 208 water quality management plan. Pueblo West proposed to update the plan to include the wash as an alternate discharge point. Right now, treated effluent is discharged into Pesthouse Gulch, which flows into Wildhorse Creek below Lake Pueblo. “The 208 regulations were last updated in 1993 when Pueblo West had a population of 3,800 and projected that there would be 6,600 people by 2010,” said Larry Howe-Kerr, manager of the Pueblo West Metro District. Pueblo West now has more than 30,000 people. “We’ve grown and our needs have changed.”

Pueblo West looked at four alternatives to golf course wash at the request of Pueblo County in December, and determined that only one — a pipeline down Wild Horse Creek to the Arkansas River — would work. It would actually cost less than the $6.5 million to discharge into Lake Pueblo. Pueblo West wants to use Lake Pueblo to recycle return flows from transmountain water. Most of the community’s water is brought in from the Colorado River basin and can be reused to extinction, stretching its water supply. “The cost would be less if we don’t lose water from the flow management program,” Howe-Kerr said. “The water itself is worth more than the cost of either of the options.”

More Pueblo West coverage here.

Pueblo West is ponying up $205,000 for geological assessment at the proposed Red Creek Reservoir site

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (James Amos):

The site of the proposed Red Creek Reservoir is a mile from the Arkansas River near the borderline of Pueblo and Fremont counties. District Manager Larry Howe-Kerr said this part of the reservoir study will include drilling to study the rock under the reservoir site. That and other studies will determine if the reservoir could hold water and if it would be strong enough. The drilling could begin as soon as next week.

More Pueblo West coverage here.

Pueblo West: Water and sewer rates to rise

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From The Pueblo West View (Mike Spence):

…the 7.9 percent hike in water rates and the 3.2 percent increase in wastewater fees aren’t enough to offset the district’s costs. The fee hikes will increase the monthly water bill for the average water user by $3.51 ($1.75 for water and $1.76 for wastewater).

Steve Harrison, Pueblo West’s director of utilities, has been pushing for higher increases for several years. His proposal – 13.5 percent for both water and wastewater services – received some support from members of the Pueblo West Metropolitan District board of directors at past meetings. In an effort to close the funding gap, Harrison proposed the 13.5 percent hike in fees at the metro board’s Dec. 14 meeting. “The sewer fund is seriously underfunded,” Harrison said. “We need help.” Despite Harrison’s plea, the request was voted down.

More Pueblo West coverage here.

Pueblo West: Water and sewer rates going up

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FromThe Pueblo Chieftain (James Amos):

The board of the Pueblo West Metropolitan District approved next year’s $24.3 million budget on Monday. The budget included a 7.9-percent raise in water fees and a 3.2-percent raise in sewer fees. Steve Harrison, the district’s director of utilities, said the raises sound large but only amount to a few dollars a month for modest-sized homes.

More Pueblo West coverage here.

Pueblo West: Pumpback plan update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo West is seeking state health department approval of a pumpback plan it says will not harm Lake Pueblo, which is contested by State Parks and the Pueblo Board of Water Works. The Pueblo County commissioners and Pueblo Area Council of Governments have balked at approval of Pueblo West’s plan to return treated sewer flows into a gulch behind the golf course above Lake Pueblo. Right now, all options are open, said Pueblo County’s water attorney Ray Petros…

“On the one hand, they say they have the science,” Petros said. “Then why are they so reticent about putting in an application for a 1041 permit so there could be public scrutiny and independent verification of that science?” The county still would have to permit a discharge into Lake Pueblo, even if state approval is given. There also likely would be issues with the Bureau of Reclamation for long-term storage contracts in Lake Pueblo, Petros said…

The pumpback option would allow Pueblo West to use more of [transmountain] flows because there would not be the transit loss associated with Wild Horse Dry Creek.

More Pueblo West coverage here.

Pueblo West: Discharge site request change spawns ill will

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From The Pueblo West View (Mike Spence):

The 3-0 vote to reject the site application plan came after a 30-minute debate in which Pueblo West officials accused the county commissioners of singling out the Pueblo West project for rejection, of going back on their word, and connecting this project with the county’s battle with Pueblo West over the Southern Delivery System.

Those charges brought a rebuke from Commission Chairman Jeff Chostner. “It was the procedural compliance that is the problem,” Chostner said. “We are not hostile to your option. I have no opinion on your option. Until it comes to us formally, we are going to hold you to strict procedural compliance…

The war of words was over the metro district’s filing of an application with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to relocate the discharge site of its wastewater plant from the Arkansas to Lake Pueblo. The application is one of the first steps in the metro district’s attempt to build a pump back project that will clean wastewater from its wastewater plant and pump it six miles to the Golf Course Wash and into Lake Pueblo. Pueblo West’s water is non-native to the Arkansas Basin, so it can be re-used to extinction, according to state law. It also would negate the need for exchanges from Lake Pueblo, metro district officials said. Currently, Pueblo West cleans its wastewater and pumps it to Wild Horse Dry Creek and into the Arkansas River. Pueblo West is given credit for that water and exchanges those credits for water from Lake Pueblo.

More Pueblo West coverage here.

Change in Pueblo West effluent discharge point (to Lake Pueblo) debated

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“State parks’ greatest concern surrounds the public perception of a direct wastewater discharge into the North Marina Cove,” John Geerdes, regional manager for state parks wrote in a letter to Pueblo West officials last week. The public perception could decrease use of the north boat ramp as well as the North Marina Cove, impacting visitation and revenue at the state park, the most heavily used in Colorado, Geerdes said. A lengthy list of other concerns also is addressed in the letter.

Pueblo West wants to change its discharge point for treated sewage from Wild Horse Dry Creek to a gulch behind the Pueblo West Golf Course, about two miles from Lake Pueblo. The $6.5 million project would discharge water that meets state Department of Public Health and Environment guidelines and would allow Pueblo West to fully use its transmountain water rights, said Steve Harrison, Pueblo West utilities director. The metro district is confident its releases into the gulch won’t be detrimental to water quality in Lake Pueblo, noting that Pueblo West also takes its water from the lake and would not want to jeopardize its own supply, Harrison said…

Geerdes said state parks’ concerns include: Long-term effects of nutrient loading in the lake are unknown and create the potential for algae blooms that could affect both wildlife habitat and the appearance of the lake; Increased weed production, including tamarisk, along the drainage in the gulch. The state is asking for assurances that weeds would be controlled; The lack of dilution of water that is released into the gulch; State parks wants a long-term monitoring plan that includes the point of discharge into the reservoir; State parks has a potable water line that crosses the drainage, which could wash out with increased flows.

“State parks requests Pueblo West explore, evaluate and present other alternative options before making any final decision to release water return flows into Golf Course Wash,” Geerdes wrote.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

Pueblo West is filing an application with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to relocate the discharge site of its wastewater plant from the Arkansas River below Pueblo Dam to Lake Pueblo. The discharge would be of treated water, not wastewater. Currently, the treatment plant discharges water into Pesthouse Gulch and then into the Arkansas River below the dam. The application would change the discharge route into Golf Course Wash, which leads into Lake Pueblo near the North Marina. District Manager Larry Howe-Kerr told the [Pueblo County] commissioners the district would satisfy all of the state’s water quality requirements in making the change.

Commissioners, however, turned down the request for approval, agreeing with county planning staff that the regional water-quality management plan, called a “208 plan” after the pertinent section of state law, needed to be amended first. That process could take six months or longer, according to Kim Headley, the county’s planning director. Howe-Kerr challenged that assessment, saying the regional plan should be modified later, after the state approves the change in the discharge site…

Headley said Lake Pueblo is a major source of drinking water to the region and other communities would want to comment on the Pueblo West application. Amending the 208 plan would require public hearings on the proposed change. After the commissioners voted not to approve Pueblo West’s application to the state, Howe-Kerr said Pueblo West would press ahead with the application anyway with the state’s Water Quality Control Division.

More Pueblo West project coverage here.

Pueblo West: Looking at options to enable reuse of effluent

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo West indicated it would still submit a site application to the state for a $6.5 million project to discharge sewer flows into a wash two miles above Lake Pueblo near the golf course, even after the Pueblo Area Council of Governments rejected the proposal on an 11-1 vote earlier this month. “We don’t know what’s going to transpire with the lawsuit against the county,” said Steve Harrison, Pueblo West utilities director. “In case we can’t come to some sort of agreement, we are applying for the site application.”

PACOG rejected the proposal because it goes against county regulations on Section 208 of the federal Clean Water Act, adopted in 1993. Pueblo West would pursue the plan because it offers the best solution for future water needs. The 208 regulations are being applied to the metro district selectively and are out of date, Harrison said.

Most of Pueblo West water comes from the Colorado River Basin, which means the community can reuse the non-native flows to extinction. Currently, Pueblo West reuses the water by exchange, sending its treated sewer flows down Wild Horse Dry Creek, and recapturing about 30 percent of them after transit losses. Pueblo West estimates it could recapture 98 percent of flows with a direct exchange into Lake Pueblo.

But other water users like the Pueblo Board of Water Works and the Fountain Valley Authority are concerned that nutrient loading from the proposed pumpback could upset the biological balance of the reservoir and create new water quality issues. There is also growing pressure to regulate traces of compounds from pharmaceuticals, detergents and fertilizers that would be more likely to make their way into the water supply. “We have serious concerns for the health of the reservoir, not only in terms of water quality, but taste and odor issues as well,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo water board. “Pueblo Reservoir is also the most-used recreational facility in the state.”[…]

Wild Horse Dry Creek discharges into the Arkansas River about six miles downstream of a river gauge critical to the flow program, and about one mile above the river intake for the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo and Black Hills Energy. It is a significant source of selenium loading, probably because of the geology of the area – water running over shale formations.

Among the alternatives that have surfaced are:

-Building a discharge pipeline to discharge just below Pueblo Dam above the river gauge.

-Building a discharge pipeline to carry effluent to the Wild Horse confluence at the Arkansas River.

-Creating a trade with the Pueblo water board to use Pueblo West effluent to supply the Comanche Power Plant, with the water board providing water to Pueblo West. The water would still get payments from outside water sales.

-Possibly developing a cooperative arrangement among Pueblo West, Colorado Springs and the Pueblo water board to recapture flows downstream.

-Maintaining the status quo, which could leave Pueblo West in the position of having to buy new water rights if its other plans fail or with a pumpback plan in place despite the local objections…

The State Department of Public Health and Environment would have to buck the PACOG recommendation if it approves the site application…

Pueblo County also has notified Pueblo West that it would require a 1041 permit for the pumpback plan, since Pueblo West identified it as a water supply issue, Headley said.

More Pueblo West coverage here.

Pueblo West is applying to water court to move discharge point in order to store effluent in Lake Pueblo

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (James Amos):

Pueblo West wants to change how its wastewater is released so that it can claim more return-flow credit for it. That would allow the district to reuse the water by collecting it again at Pueblo Dam. The water rights that supply Pueblo West come from the Western Slope, so the water can be used over and over, either physically or through exchanges of return-flow credits. Right now, Pueblo West releases treated water from its sewage-treatment plant through Pesthouse Gulch and Wildhorse Creek to the Arkansas River. That journey uses up a lot of the return-flow water by evaporation and feeding plants that grow along the gulches. Pueblo West gets return-flow credit for only 31 percent of the water that leaves the wastewater plant, Harrison said. If Pueblo West can pipe that water four miles west and release it down Golf Course Wash to Pueblo Reservoir, it can claim return-flow credit for as much as 98 percent of the water. Water rights are getting scarce in the Arkansas Valley, and Harrison said it may not be possible to buy the 3,400 acre-feet of water the “Pumpback Project” is expected to save the district. It’s enough water to supply thousands of new homes, he said.

More Pueblo West coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Pueblo West’s share of the Pueblo Arkansas River flow program 20 to 30 acre feet annually, at first

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Here’s a look at what Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner has to say about Pueblo West’s participation in the Pueblo Arkansas River flow program as a condition attached to the 1041 permit for Colorado Springs Utilities’ proposed Southern Delivery System, from James Amos writing for The Pueblo West View. From the article:

Pueblo West didn’t complain until March, Chostner said, which was years into the negotiations and debate about the pipeline. Saying that Colorado Springs had originally wanted to reroute almost all the water in the river through the pipeline, Chostner said Colorado Springs agreed to the flow program to preserve some of the river as it flows through Pueblo. Pueblo West can’t think that a dry riverbed between Lake Pueblo and the confluence with Fountain Creek can be acceptable to anyone, he said. Even Pueblo West residents use the river and trail beside it for recreation. Pueblo built a kayak park in the river near Downtown, but Chostner said the recreation flows are about more than just kayaking.

The commissioner, one of three who represent Pueblo County, said Pueblo West wouldn’t have to give up much water, about 20 to 30 acre feet annually. The district has about 8,500 shares of water that translates into 8,500 acre feet of water in good years. In dry years, the yield could be about 4,500 acre feet of water – about what Pueblo West citizens use now on a yearly basis.

Chostner wasn’t speaking to any representatives from Pueblo West however, according to Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain.

Other SDS partners, Fountain and Security, voiced support at the meeting [for the Pueblo Arkansas River flow program], but no one from Pueblo West showed up.

The Colorado Springs City Council drove a stake through the hear of the Fremont County route for SDS earlier this week when they approved the Pueblo County route. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

The route decision takes a Fremont County option out of the picture, at least for now, and the cost reflects updated engineering cost estimates. The timing of the project was delayed because Colorado Springs now thinks it won’t need the project until 2017. It also allows water rates to increase more gradually. Most council members spoke of the decision in historic terms, comparing it to the Homestake Project of the 1950s and ’60s, agreeing with staff that it would be difficult if not impossible to gain the approval of state, federal and local agencies again if it’s not built now. Councilman Jerry Heimlicher called it a “tombstone vote,” meaning he would want it recorded on his tombstone when he dies. He vigorously defended the increase in water rates, saying they would go up even more without SDS.

Vice Mayor Larry Small touted the benefits to Fountain Creek Colorado Springs will pay for as mitigation to Pueblo County.

The council also heard about adding potential partners in El Paso County to the list of partners in SDS, according to Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Vice Mayor Larry Small and Councilman Darryl Glenn also suggested the pipeline could be built sooner and paid for more easily by letting others into the project.

Councilman Tom Gallagher, the lone vote against SDS, spoke against the idea of enlarging the pool of users on the pipeline, saying council’s first obligation is to supply water to its own service area.

“They’re asking us to support their growth,” Gallagher said. “Do we have the supply to support their growth? If we’re not using the proper supply to make our decisions, we are risking our ability to serve our ratepayers.”

More Coyote Gulch Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

New reservoir for Pueblo West?

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (James Amos):

Most of the district’s water comes from Twin Lakes, a project that brings water from the western side of the Continental Divide. Pueblo West already leases space in Lake Pueblo, but its water there can be dumped if the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation needs the space for other water.

[Tom Mullans, attorney for the Pueblo West Metropolitan District] said the proposed reservoir is located near the Arkansas River in a side canyon. The roughly 3,800 acres of land is owned by a limited liability corporation. The Pueblo West board voted to give notice of its intent to buy the land, the first step in both beginning the process of negotiating with the owner and getting access to the land to study it. If the land is suitable for a reservoir but a deal can’t be reached with the owner, Pueblo West may condemn the land and forcibly buy it. Steve Harrison, Pueblo West’s director of utilities, said the site may hold about 20,000 acre-feet of water. That would be much more than the roughly 9,000 acre-feet the district leases each year in Lake Pueblo. The proposed reservoir may take more than a decade to acquire and build.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.