Lower Ark pens letter to @EPA chief Pruitt in support of lawsuit

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 (Jon Pompia):

The lower district recently submitted a letter to EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, reminding him that far from “picking on” Colorado Springs — as Lamborn and Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers contend — the “EPA is carrying out its statutory responsibility to enforce the Clean Water Act against a permittee that district has sought for nearly a decade to get to live up to its stormwater obligations.”

The dispatch comes on the heels of letters sent by the Pueblo County commissioners to members of the state’s federal congressional delegation, urging the EPA to follow through on its suit, which was filed in conjunction with the state in U.S. District Court in November 2016.

Signed by Lynden Gill, the lower district’s board chair, the letter goes on to highlight efforts, dating back to at least 2008, in getting Colorado Springs to comply with its stormwater permit. Those efforts extended to the lower district filing a notice of intent to file a citizen’s suit pursuant to the Clean Water Act in November 2014.

The lower district, along with Pueblo County, became parties of interest along with the EPA and the state in the lawsuit charging Colorado Springs with illegally discharging pollutants into Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River.

“In short,” the letter continues, “the lower district appreciates EPA’s enforcement action against the city, action the lower district had felt compelled to undertake on its own before EPA sued the city, and can now jointly pursue with EPA and the State of Colorado.”

The letter concludes with a plea for EPA not to abandon the lower district but pursue enforcement of Colorado Springs’ stormwater violations.

Jay Winner, general manager of the lower district, expressed hope the letter will serve its purpose…

Winner said that while the EPA may choose to withdraw from the lawsuit, it cannot halt it.

“That’s why Pueblo County, the lower district and the state intervened — because if they withdraw, we’re still in,” Winner said.

Glen Haven to rebuild town hall

Glen Haven October 2013 via NBC News

From The Longmont Times-Call (Pamela Johnson):

Nearly four years ago, floods reduced the Glen Haven Town Hall to a pile of debris, unrecognizable as the community center it had been for more than 70 years.

Thursday, community members gathered across the main street from that site, on land outside the floodplain, and celebrated the upcoming construction of a new town hall — a center that will be built all with donated funds, made a reality by the drive of the small mountain community…

those residents pulled together again and raised the money to build the new town hall. So far, their efforts have brought in $300,000 of the needed $500,000.

Donations are still being accepted, and two fundraising events are planned this summer — a barbecue and music festival on June 24 and a tour of historic cabins on July 30. Tickets and donation information are available online at http://www.glenhaventownhall.org.

Shimon expects the community association board to choose a contractor within the next week and construction to be complete by next March.

The original town hall, built in 1939, was washed off its foundations during the 1976 flood, according to information from Steve Green, who is on the board of the association and on the steering committee for the new town hall.

Residents then pushed it back onto its foundation and raised the building about 2 feet higher, according to Green.

During the second flood, the town hall was pulverized, and county rules around rebuilding in a floodplain prevented anything from being rebuilt on the existing site. So, community members chose a location less than a block away, from which you can see the old town hall location.

Architect Michael Tavel, who is also a Glen Haven resident, designed the new structure to look much like the old, with the same “historic main street character” as the original building. However, it will be slightly larger, will have room for town archives, will have a kitchenette for potlucks and, unlike the old space, will include a bathroom.

His vision is a place where residents, and future generations, can make memories as they did for more than 70 years in the old town hall.

@RepDLamborn’s help with @EPA Fountain Creek lawsuit not welcome by all

Fountain Creek erosion via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

Pueblo County Commission Chairman Terry Hart said Lamborn has played no role in the years of negotiations between Colorado Springs and county officials over stormwater controls, adding: “He should stay the heck out of it.”

Lamborn, from Colorado Springs, told a Denver newspaper last week that he’s spoken to new EPA Director Scott Pruitt twice about dropping the agency’s 2016 lawsuit that claims the city isn’t adequately monitoring Fountain Creek for contaminated stormwater runoff…

Lamborn argues that recent agreements between Colorado Springs and Pueblo County calling for $460 million in stormwater improvements is proof the lawsuit is unnecessary.

Hart countered that Lamborn is ignoring the importance of the lawsuit in forging a better relationship between Pueblo County and Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and that city’s council.

Hart said Suthers’ support for spending $460 million over 20 years is a fragile commitment between Pueblo County and the current leadership in Colorado Springs.

“The threat of that lawsuit was critically important in our reaching an intergovernmental agreement with Colorado Springs,” Hart said Tuesday. “We joined that lawsuit to protect our interests and right now, Colorado Springs is doing a good job of honoring its commitment. But the lawsuit would nail down the agreement to withstand the political winds that blow back and forth.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also is a party to the lawsuit, as is Pueblo County.

State health officials confirmed Tuesday they joined the suit because of very real concerns that Colorado Springs continues to violate water quality standards.

“We believe that these significant violations need to be corrected in order to protect the state’s water quality,” the department said in a statement.

If Lamborn is hoping to use political clout to stop the lawsuit, Pueblo County officials are looking for help in the nation’s capital, too.

Hart said the county sent letters of concern in April to Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., and the state’s two senators, Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner.

Hart said the issue then was urging continued congressional support for EPA enforcement.

Boxelder Basin Regional Stormwater Authority has a cash flow problem

Boxelder creek watershed

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

The Boxelder Basin Regional Stormwater Authority is seeking permission to make interest-only payments in 2017 on three loans it has from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, or CWCB.

The authority, which is made up of the city of Fort Collins, the town of Wellington and Larimer County, has a cash-flow problem.

It owes $588,728 by the end of the year to the John W. Day Family Partnership as the final payment on a $1.67 million settlement finalized in April that ended legal wrangling over a flood-control project the authority built east of Interstate 25 and south of County Road 52.

The authority doesn’t have the resources to pay the settlement and the principal on its CWCB loans this year, said Gerry Horak, president of the authority board and member of the Fort Collins City Council.

It will be able to make interest and principal payments in the years to come based on revenue projections, he said.

Putting to rest the dispute with the Day Family Partnership was critical for the authority, Horak said. The court fight could have gone on for years with no guarantee the authority would prevail.

“This was all about cost avoidance,” he said. “To not settle would have been insane.”

The authority wound up owning the 62-acre site that makes up its East Side Detention Facility, or ESDF. The project is designed to dramatically restrict flows on Boxelder Creek during a 100-year flood event, which is defined as having a 1 percent chance of occurring.

Changing the flows would remove numerous downstream properties from the creek’s 100-year floodplain and potentially open them up to development. Roads, bridges and other infrastructure also would be protected from damaging floods.

Sites downstream include the areas around the interchanges of I-25 with Mulberry Street and Prospect Road. The reduced floodplain also would benefit the town of Timnath and its plans for development, said Stan Myers, district manager of the stormwater authority.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is reviewing the modeled impact of the authority’s projects on flood flows and is expected to revise its map of the floodplain in 2018.

The balance on the CWCB loans, which helped fund construction of three authority projects, is $8.8 million. The authority has proposed paying $240,620 in interest and deferring $484,030 owed in principal.

The restructured loans would be paid off in 14 years as originally planned. With stormwater fees coming from new developments in the authority’s service area, the loans might be paid off earlier than scheduled, Myers said.

When the loans are paid, the authority will be dissolved. Boxelder members are negotiating how facilities built by the authority will be operated and maintained after it ends…

In addition to the ESDF, the authority made $5 million in improvements to and around Clark Reservoir north of Wellington. The project took hundreds of homes and dozens of businesses in Wellington out of the Coal Creek floodplain.

The authority also built a crossing structure of the Larimer-Weld Canal for Boxelder Creek that will be maintained by the ditch company.

The county is open to taking responsibility for Clark Reservoir and the ESDF, Blomstrom said. But details, such as setting up funds to cover ongoing maintenance costs, have yet to be negotiated among the authority’s members…

Properties in unincorporated Larimer County in the authority’s service area are charged annual stormwater fees based the type of property and the amount of impervious surface, such as parking lots and rooftops, it has.

In 2017, the fee on a residential property is $66, up from the $60 that was charged since the district began.

The authority has been controversial from its inception, with many residents saying it was not needed. But officials said with the history of flooding within the Boxelder Creek Basin, which stretches from southern Wyoming to the Poudre River, flood-control was needed to protect people and property.

Horak said the CWCB is willing to restructure its loans to Boxelder on the condition it receives legal assurance the governing board has the authority to change conditions of the loan.

Wellington officials aren’t sure about that, according to a letter sent to the CWCB by a Longmont law firm representing the town. The letter states modifying the loan agreement would result in $104,734 in additional interest.

The authority’s members – not its board – would have to approve the restructuring the loan, according to the letter from attorney Jeffrey Kahn.

Wellington officials did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

Myers said Wellington officials have expressed several concerns regarding what they see as escalating costs for the Boxelder authority and have sought a cap on how much the town would contribute.

With its spike in residential development, Wellington contributes about 40 percent of the authority’s annual $1 million budget.

The town has withheld its allotment for 2017 until its issues can be addressed, Horak said.

Will the @EPA reconsider the Fountain Creek lawsuit?…@RepDLamborn pow wows with @EPAScottPruitt

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 Associated Press via the The Fort Collins Coloradoan:

The Denver Post reports that Lamborn has spoken twice with EPA chief Scott Pruitt about the suit, which was filed in 2016 by the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Pueblo County joined the suit this year.

Colorado Springs insists it is investing $460 million with other municipalities over the next two decades to address the problem…

The EPA declined to comment.

[Stormwater] in Colorado Springs flows into Fountain Creek and south to Pueblo, where it joins the Arkansas River. The Arkansas is heavily used by agriculture in southeast Colorado.

The EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment filed suit in 2016, alleging water quality violations.

Lamborn said he’d like to get the Colorado state agency to abandon the suit. But Dr. Larry Wolk, the department’s executive director and chief medical officer, said the agency believes “these significant violations need to be corrected in order to protect the state’s water quality.”

“It’s not just the EPA, but it’s also the state of Colorado that filed the lawsuit,” said Jane Ard-Smith, chair of the Sierra Club’s Pikes Peak chapter. “The EPA doesn’t go around suing willy-nilly. We’ve seen a history of [stormwater] violations, so I would hope that the congressman would see the value of enforcing clean water laws.”

#Colorado Springs turns dirt on first project under Ballot Issue 2

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

From KRDO.com (Mekialaya White):

City crews are officially starting work to repair stormwater drainage after Colorado Springs voters passed Ballot Issue 2 back in April.

It comes with a price tag of $12 million dollars in excess revenue.

“This multi phase project will address flooding in the hardest hit area in the Little Shooks Run neighborhood by making several improvements to the drainage system through the end of 2017,” Mayor John Suthers, with the city of Colorado Springs explained.

The project will use $6 million this year and another $6 next year.

“It’s just an example of how we can take needed dollars and fix issues that have been around for a long time.” said Water Resources Engineering Division Manager Rich Mulledy.

The projects directly impact other parts of Southern Colorado. Pueblo county and city leaders have dealt with their share of storm water issues also, stemming from Fountain Creek.

“A lot of erosion and occasionally a sewer spill,” said Steve Nawrocki, Pueblo City Council President has said.

Grand Valley Drainage District summary judgment dismissed, trial next month

Bicycling the Colorado National Monument, Grand Valley in the distance via Colorado.com

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Mesa County District Judge Lance Timbreza on Wednesday rejected motions from both sides for summary judgment in the case, meaning that a trial set to begin June 5 will go forward.

The drainage district in 2016 began charging the fee — $36 per year for most residences — within its 90-square-mile district on the north side of the Colorado River.

Businesses are charged $36 a year for each 2,500 square feet of impervious surfaces, generally roofs and parking lots.

The Mesa County Commission and Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce filed suit alleging that the charge amounted to an illegal tax under the state Constitution.

The district has collected more than $3 million so far from the bills it sent out last year and this one.

The undisputed facts offered by both sides do not resolve whether the district’s charge is a fee or a tax, Timbreza wrote, noting that he was aware that his predecessor said the charge was “in the nature of a fee.”

Judge David Bottger made that finding in denying a request by the county and chamber for a preliminary injunction halting collection of the fee.

Bottger’s finding, however, “does not carry any precedential value in this case or in any other case,” Timbreza wrote.

One issue Timbreza said he wants resolved is the primary purpose of the charge.

The district needs to raise revenue to improve its ability to handle “regulated water,” or water that is unrelated to the district’s original purpose, that makes its way into the district’s system of pipes, conduits and ditches.

“I cannot determine whether the primary purpose of the revenue generated by the fee is to improve all facilities for the benefit of all of the district’s services or only for the specific purposes of regulating regulated water, which includes stormwater, and the regulation, handling and control of stormwater is a primary, legislative purpose of the district,” Timbreza wrote.

Representatives of both sides said they welcomed the trial.

“I think both sides would agree, we need a good, serious judicial look, so we all know where we stand,” Mesa County Commissioner Scott McInnis said.

Better to determine the status of the charge now instead of 10 years from now, said Tim Ryan, general manager of the drainage district.

“The whole process is a welcome development for the district,” Ryan said.

Ryan and McInnis both are to testify in the case.

“We look forward to the opportunity to present our case in court that this is indeed a tax on residents in the Grand Valley Drainage District,” said Diane Schwenke, president and chief executive officer of the chamber.