Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

Fountain Creek erosion via The Pueblo Chieftain

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

Mark Shea of Colorado Springs Public Works Department was early to the meeting with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District with the good news that Colorado Springs voters have approved funding of the Fountain Creek Flood Mitigation Project by approving Ballot Issue 2A. The project has not been funded for several years, but some of the projects have been funded through the general fund, explained Engineer Richard Mulledy. The project is now the subject of litigation between Colorado Springs and the LAVWCD, so Attorney Bart Mendenhall urged both sides not to get into the territory of the lawsuit in progress.

Mulledy has been at the helm of the storm water project for two and a half years. Anthony Nunez, Director from Pueblo, asked Mulledy if the current 2A funding replaced the Enterprise Zone, which was originally designed to fund the project but voted out by the people of Colorado Springs. Mulledy said yes. The 2A mandate is intended only for capital projects associated with Fountain Creek Flood Mitigation, drainage maintenance over the 395 square miles of the Colorado Springs area, and the water quality program associated with it. Fees for litigation are not included…

Winner brought up sedimentation as the major cause of the North La Junta flooding problem. “Thirteen feet of sediment under the North La Junta Bridge,” said Winner. “More like 15 feet,” said Bud Quick, whose volunteer earth-moving has protected North La Junta several times. Earlier Quick had declared the problem of flooding in North La Junta will never be solved until the river is dredged and sediment controlled in the Arkansas River.
At the end of the meeting, Rose Ward thanked the LAVWCD for its help in flood mitigation for North La Junta, and at the present time for helping them establish a special district that will enable North La Junta Conservancy District to help itself.

#ColoradoSprings in a scramble to get finance systems in place to collect #stormwater fees

Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

…the Colorado Springs Utilities Board, composed of City Council, must approve placing the monthly $5-per-household fee on residential utility bills, for which the city would pay the agency a one-time fee of $1.8 million and $200,000 a year, the Gazette reported.

Approval of Utilities handling collections is expected, and Strand says it appears that customers who don’t pay the stormwater fee would risk losing all utility services.

“We’re discussing this with Utilities [staff],” Strand says. “If someone doesn’t pay their bill, what’s likely to happen is their utilities will be turned off.”

Fees of $30 per acre for non-residential developed parcels will be billed by the city, which must set up the mechanics to do that. Undeveloped properties will be assessed by the stormwater manager based on impervious surface. (Suthers has said the city will pay an annual bill of about $100,000 for its property, including park land.) Those, too, will be billed by the city.

Strand says the consequence for nonpayment of non-residential billings is “likely” a lien placed on the property, which would require cooperation from El Paso County, the keeper of deed records. “The county commissioners I’ve talked to say they will cooperate,” he says.

In 2011, when the city wanted to collect $765,000 still owed for stormwater fees implemented in 2007 but halted in 2009, county officials refused to add the fees to property tax bills or deeds. Those fees, however, were not approved by voters.

Another complication is which properties, if any, will be deemed exempt from the stormwater fee. The measure approved on Nov. 7 entitles the city to bill nonprofits and churches, but what about federal agencies, such as post offices?

Federal agencies didn’t pay the city’s stormwater fees imposed in 2007, citing sovereign immunity and claiming the fees were a tax and, thus, unconstitutional. But, thanks to a bill signed into law by President Obama on Jan. 4, 2011, which amended the Clean Water Act, the federal government will pay its fair share of local stormwater management services, according to the Association of State Floodplain Managers.

Whether that bill applies to military installations is unclear. However, the association wrote in a newsletter that the law was envisioned as a way to resolve billing disputes with various federal agencies, including in Aurora where the city had billed Buckley Air Force Base $143,445 in outstanding stormwater fees as of May 2010.

Although Strand initially said he thought Peterson Air Force Base, which overlaps into the city limits, could be exempted, when told of the 2011 amendment to the Clean Water Act, he was eager to learn more about it.

“They use our resources, and we respond to help them with fire protection, although they have their own fire service,” he says. “I think they ought to be accountable under this current situation [ballot measure] we passed on Tuesday [Nov. 7].”

Brush councillors receive update on stormwater improvements

From The Fort Morgan Times (Paul Albani-Burgio):

Storm water flooding has been a long-standing problem in Brush, but City Manager Monty Torres recently told the city council that the city has made significant strides towards addressing that problem in recent years.

During a presentation made to the council at its most recent meeting, Torres explained that the city is nearly finished with a five-phase downtown storm water improvement project. During that project, large inlets were installed on the downtown blocks, along with a 60-inch drainage pipe that is double the size of the old pipe.

Torres said each of those phases cost $1 million-plus. Grants from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and the Colorado Department of Transportation covered the majority of those costs, according to the city manager…

Torres said the city has also made improvements to its storm inlets, which are designed to take in water during storms. Most of those improvements took the form of open-throated gates, which Torres said are designed to continue to take in storm water even if leaves and other debris build up around the grate’s opening. Torres said the previous grates the city had in place would often get clogged with newspapers, leaves and other debris during storms.

Torres said that some new inlets have been installed at strategic points throughout the city in order to prevent flooding during the majority of the city’s storms. He said the inlets would quickly take care of the water produced by 90 percent of the city’s storms. Torres said that there would be another 5 percent of storms where the water would sit in the street for only a short time before being drained away.

That left the most severe 5 percent of storms, which Torres said would still likely lead to flooding…

The city manager said Brush also has more flooding projects on the horizon, including one intended to reduce flooding on Williams Street and another that would reduce flooding at the city’s golf course, which would also help to reduce flooding on Cambridge Street near the course. However, Torres said the latter project would be contingent on the city receiving additional funds to go through with paving the course’s parking lot from the J/N Foundation, its partner on that project.

Torres said the city will also continue to look at adding additional inlets throughout Brush. However, he cautioned that the city does not have the funds to put in an inlet “whenever someone finds puddle of water.” Rather, those inlets will continue to be installed in strategic locations to help reduce flooding throughout the city.

“This is a fine example of the new relationship between Pueblo and Colorado Springs” — Terry Hart

The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas):

Pueblo County officials said Wednesday that they are excited about Colorado Springs voters approving a ballot measure securing $17 million in annual stormwater fees to be used exclusively for stormwater drainage and flood control projects.

“This is a fine example of the new relationship between Pueblo and Colorado Springs. I think it’s wonderful to have two communities rolling up their sleeves to tackle problems the two communities share,” Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart said.

The money coming from the new ballot measure will be used to fund projects, including the list of 71 projects identified in the intergovernmental agreement between Pueblo County and Colorado Springs regarding the permit for the Southern Delivery System. SDS is the large pipeline that transfers water from the Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs…

The IGA commits the Front Range city and its utilities department to pay $460 million for storm water infrastructure, maintenance and education programs over the next two decades.

“As evidenced by the incredible progress that has been made in our stormwater program over the past two years, the city of Colorado Springs is committed to operating an outstanding stormwater program,” said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers.

“Our commitment, and the commitment of our citizens, is evident in passage of Ballot 2A to provide a dedicated funding source for stormwater infrastructure, operations and maintenance.”

Suthers said this commitment will continue as the city of Colorado Springs and Colorado Springs Utilities invest $460 million over the next two decades to stormwater operations that will improve the city’s ability to mitigate flooding and preserve water quality while meeting the requirements of its MS4 Permit.

#Stormwater fee passes in #ColoradoSprings

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

From KKTV (Jessica Leicht):

Colorado Springs voters passed Ballot Issue 2A, a dedicated stormwater fee. The city says it will generate $17 to $20 million annually for stormwater infrastructure and maintenance.

The fee stems from a lawsuit filed by the EPA, State of Colorado and Pueblo County against the City of Colorado Springs. It alleged the city failed to “adequately fund its stormwater management program,” causing problems for cities to the south. In an agreement with Pueblo, the City of Colorado Springs committed to providing at least $17 million in funding every year for stormwater infrastructure improvements to prevent issues downstream.

Mayor John Suthers says the money the city was using under that agreement, came out of the city’s general fund. Now, he says the general fund money can be reallocated to hire more police officers and firefighters.

“What this means is we’ll be able to take this dedicated revenue stream, deal with our legal problems surrounding stormwater and we’re also going to be able to deal with our public safety staffing issues,” Mayor Suthers said.

The approved measure means a monthly fee, of $5.00 per residential property, and $30.00 per acre for non-residential properties. The fee will show up on utility bills starting in July 2018.

The city says, properties bigger than five acres with significant areas of previous surface will be assessed by the Water Resources Engineering department.

#ColoradoSprings: Is Issue 2A a springboard to outsized government spending?

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

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Conrad Swanson):

While Mayor John Suthers touts stormwater fees as a route to financial stability for Colorado Springs, others see them as a symptom of the city’s insatiable appetite for cash.

Some worry the city will inevitably raise the fees, which appear on El Paso County’s November ballot as Issue 2A.

According to the ballot language, the city can raise the fees if ordered to do so by a judge, to come into compliance with state and federal laws or to abide by any intergovernmental agreements preceding June 1, 2016.

A high-profile lawsuit filed against the city by state and federal governments or an intergovernmental agreement the city entered into with Pueblo County last year are the two most likely causes of future fee increases.

Suthers argues that any increase from the agreement with Pueblo would be minimal and 2A is a proactive effort to mitigate high-dollar judgments against the city in the ongoing lawsuit.

If passed, the fees would charge homeowners $5 a month and nonresidential property owners $30 per acre each month. The fees would last 20 years and are expected to raise as much as $18 million a year for the city’s stormwater obligations, which currently are met using the general fund.

With a dedicated stormwater funding source in place, money freed in the general fund would be spent hiring new police officers and firefighters, Suthers said. If 2A passes, the city will be in good financial shape for the next two decades, he has said.

But Councilmen Bill Murray and Don Knight, who oppose 2A, are dubious.

Knight said the city’s wants will always be greater than the budget allows. The general fund has increased in recent years and the city can afford to continue paying for stormwater that way.

And Murray said new police officers and firefighters serve a “Trojan horse” and open the door for fee increases.

In April 2016, the city entered into a $460 million, 20-year agreement with Pueblo County to complete 71 stormwater projects. The city’s annual investments in those projects increase
every five years and average $20 million a year over the life of the agreement. The investments currently sit at $17 million a year.

If 2A passes and revenue hits the $18 million estimate in 2019, the first full year the fees will be in effect, the city can cover the $17 million investments. But in 2021 the city’s scheduled investments increase to $19 million a year, leaving a $1 million deficit.

Suthers said he expects growth to help cover the increases, but money from the general fund can also help.

Meeker: White River algae blooms topic of meeting

Bloom on the White River.
Photo courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife via the Rio Blanco Herald Times.

From The Rio Blanco Herald-Times (Reed Kelley):

More than three dozen people gathered at the sheriff’s office conference room in Meeker last Friday morning to continue addressing why we’re experiencing such bothersome summer algae blooms in the ecological heart of our community—the White River. Led by Rio Blanco Commissioner Si Woodruff, with Commissioner Jeff Rector at his side, the past meetings were acknowledged and the county laid out their proposal for moving forward. The proposal was that an action oriented advisory group, smaller than the whole group gathered Friday, be established which could better focus on needed actions.

In addition, the county proposed that the White River and Douglas Creek Conservation Districts (CDs) take the lead in coordinating and facilitating meetings and electronic communications and serve as the fiscal agent to pursue and manage finances including grant applications and management for addressing the algae and overall health of the river.

Callie Hendrickson, executive director of the CDs, explained the discussions the CDs had held with the county and presented a possible scope of work to be carried out…

The advisory group proposed by the county initially includes representatives from the U.S. Geological Service (USGS), the county, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Towns of Meeker and Rangely, Meeker Sanitation District, Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the CDs. Interested vested stakeholders, non-governmental organizations and members of the general public are expected to be included at some point as well.

The assembled group Friday accepted the county proposal without objection. The advisory group itself met Friday afternoon.

The county’s concept was also to turn to the USGS to do much of the needed further research. USGS scientist Ken Leib of Grand Junction, who has been attending the county river algae meetings, gave a presentation to the whole group on what such a research effort should look like. Leib reviewed much of the information on the river conditions that have already been collected, and the further research and data gaps USGS would try to complete.

Hendrickson facilitated a round-robin collection of important pieces individuals at the meeting would like to see included in further study and action. Several group members urged that the advisory group not delay pursuing actual remedial actions regarding the algae that make sense in the short term while conducting longer term research.