Waldo Canyon burn scar still a flash flood threat after five years

Waldo Canyon Fire burn scar

From KOAA.com (Lena Howland):

In order to mitigate the risk, the city has been working on a number of stormwater projects along North Douglas Creek, South Douglas Creek and Camp Creek, all runoff areas from the burn scar.

“We have not let our guard down, ever since the Waldo Canyon Fire, we’ve had so many opportunities to do repairs and projects in order to prevent any more damage coming from the burn scar, as much as practical,” Kelley said.

All lessons learned, Kelley says they are more prepared to handle flash floods now than they were five years ago.

“We have an operations and maintenance division which responds on the spot to any types of flooding concerns, our emergency operations center is fully functioning and everybody is prepared for this type of an event to occur,” he said.

The City of Colorado Springs has created an Emergency Preparedness Manual for everyone which can be found here.

Pueblo County Commissioners urge EPA to continue Fountain Creek lawsuit

Fountain Creek erosion via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas):

In response to a call from Sen. Doug Lamborn for the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw its federal lawsuit against the city of Colorado Springs, the Pueblo County commissioners have drafted a letter to lawmakers against that action.

On Wednesday, the commissioners agreed to send the letter to members of their federal congressional delegation.

“We felt that it was imperative that we draft this letter to both the House and the Senate to reiterate just how important this lawsuit is to Pueblo County in protecting our interests pertaining to water quality,” Commissioner Garrison Ortiz said.

Commissioner Sal Pace said lobbyists already are asking new EPA leadership to pull back on Fountain Creek and to not push forward with the federal lawsuit.

“There’s been some evidence that the EPA is going to heed the call of some of these political forces in El Paso County and Colorado Springs,” Pace said.

“We think it’s critically important to the county that the EPA stays strong in this matter and stands alongside the state health department, Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.”


Ortiz said budget cuts to the EPA by President Donald Trump may affect the current lawsuit.

“That certainly played into the decision-making process whether to join in the litigation in the first place or not,” Ortiz said.

The proposed cuts especially to the EPA and some other agencies are certainly concerning . . . All that we are continuing to ask for is a seat at the table ensuring that our interests are continuing to be protected.”

#Colorado Springs: Mayor Suthers may ask for stormwater referendum

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

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Wayne Heilman):

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said Tuesday that he plans to eventually ask City Council members to put a stormwater fee on the ballot if a settlement can be reached with the Environmental Protection Agency on a lawsuit the federal agency filed against the city last year.

Paying the annual cost of a $460 million, 20-year intergovernmental agreement with Pueblo County to build 71 major stormwater projects has “put pressure on police and fire” budgets and will eventually force the city to impose a stormwater fee like every other large U.S. city, Suthers told about 200 customers of Vectra Bank Colorado and others during an economic forecast at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort. He also thanked voters for allowing the city to keep $12 million in sales tax collections above revenue limits during the next two years that will be spent on stormwater projects.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment filed a lawsuit in November against the city of Colorado Springs over water quality violations and stormwater program shortfalls dating to 2009. Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District later joined the suit…

Suthers told the Police Protective Association last fall that the $17 million a year it must spend on stormwater projects under its agreement with Pueblo County are guaranteed to keep the city budget tight, but relieving that burden with a fee could help the city reclaim $15 million to $16 million that could be spent on police and fire needs. Police Chief Pete Carey last year dismantled several special units, including one focusing on gangs, to put more personnel on patrol and reduce the response times that had moved sharply higher in the past few years.

Suthers also touted an improving local economy, a surging tourism industry as well as an improved relationship with the City Council, more spending to improve roads and stormwater and elimination of the business personal property tax and other tax breaks for business during his 20-minute speech. He urged the business-focused audience to use new flights added during the past year by Frontier and American airlines, and said fares are coming down on many routes from the Colorado Springs Airport because of competition among several airlines – including Chicago and Phoenix.

2nd Annual Conference on Environmental Conditions of the Animas and San Juan Watersheds

This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]

Here’s the Click here to register. From the release:

JOIN US IN FARMINGTON. Building on last year’s successful conference, the 2nd Annual Conference on Environmental Conditions of the Animas and San Juan Watersheds with Emphasis on Gold King Mine and other Mine Waste Issues will continue to facilitate the exchange of data and research results associated with monitoring efforts related to the August 2015 Gold King Mine spill. Since the spill, quite a bit has happened on the site and this conference will provide an update of the increased understanding of the spill, along with lessons that have been learned.

The conference is an opportunity to meet, learn from, and share ideas on a broad effort that includes four states, three Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regions, two Tribes, and numerous local and municipal agencies and public water systems.

The New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) will host the conference on June 20-22, 2017 at San Juan College in Farmington, New Mexico. This year’s technical program will include oral and poster presentations in addition to plenary talks from some of the region’s leading experts on environmental catastrophes and their impacts on our communities. This year’s conference will include an all-day educational field trip of the Animas and San Juan watersheds.

Particularly relevant topics to be featured at the conference this year include:

  • Geology, minerology, ore bodies and natural sources of contamination
  • Analysis of Animas and San Juan watersheds as a result of Gold King Mine spill
  • Effects of acid mine drainage after more than a century of mining
  • Effects of historical mill-waste discharges
  • Effects of historical spill events
  • Effects of the Gold King Mine spill
  • Differentiating geologic and historical contaminants from Gold King Mine spill contaminants
  • Transport and fate of mining contaminants in the Animas and San Juan watersheds
  • Contaminant uptake into the food web
  • Mining and milling contaminant impacts on surface water, sediment, groundwater, agriculture, livestock, wildlife, and humans
  • Long-term monitoring
  • Existing corrective measures to control mine seepage and hydraulic consequences
  • Options for additional source control, spill prevention, and remediation
  • E. coli and other organisms in nutrients
  • Streamflow and water quality sensitivity to climate change
  • Groundwater and surface-water geochemistry and their interaction with the hyporheic zone
  • The conference will support the activities outlined in the Gold King Mine Water Spill Long Term Monitoring Plan, prepared by the New Mexico’s Long Term Impact Team (April 4, 2016).

    The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)

    Fort Collins breweries to hold panel on water issues, April 18, 2017 — BizWest

    New Belgium brewery. Photo credit Wisconsin Distributors.

    From BizWest (Jensen Werley):

    Northern Colorado breweries are gathering for Earth Day to discuss how breweries can help protect the local watershed.

    Fourteen area breweries, including Odell Brewing Co. and Horse and Dragon Brewing Co., are gathering at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 18, at New Belgium Brewing Co. for the BreWater panel discussion.

    “We’ve been gathering for the last couple of years to share water conservation practices and to learn about critical watershed issues from local experts,” Katie Wallace, assistant director of sustainability at New Belgium, said in a prepared statement. “This event will allow the greater community to hear about water issues that affect local brewers and to provide feedback on what matters to them.”

    BreWater has already had success in helping fund the removal of the defunct Josh Ames Division Dam. Members have also toured the local watershed and hosted water experts.

    “Brewers in Fort Collins are united on a lot of fronts,” said Carol Cochran, co-founder of Horse & Dragon Brewing Co., “but our common interest in great water is perhaps our strongest bond.”

    The 14 breweries that are part of BreWater are 1933 Brewing, Black Bottle Brewery, CooperSmith’s Pub & Brewing, Equinox Brewing, Fort Collins Brewery & Tavern, Horse & Dragon Brewing Co., Intersect Brewing, Maxline Brewing, New Belgium Brewing, Odell Brewing Co., Pateros Creek Brewing Co., Snowbank Brewing, Soul Squared Brewing Co. and Zwei Brewing.

    Guest who attend the panel will be able to get discounted beers and the chance to win local brewery gear.

    #Colorado Springs voters approve stormwater funding by a wide margin

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

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

    Colorado Springs voters’ reticence to fund stormwater projects ended Tuesday evening as all three ballot measures cruised to passage.

    Ballot Issue 2, which asked voters to set aside $12 million in excess revenue for stormwater projects, jumped to an early lead with 66 in preliminary unofficial results.

    Sixty-six percent of voters – 50,612 as of 9:05 p.m. – voted in favor of the measure, according to unofficial results.

    The move came as a relief to Travis Easton, the city’s public works director.

    “I’m pleased with that and we got more work to do now,” Easton said. “We’re ready to start those projects and anxious to get everything done.”

    Specifically, the measure sets aside $6 million this year and another $6 million next year to complete 26 projects, rather than rebate the money back to taxpayers.

    The vote marked another chapter in a years-long saga over funding flood control projects across the city…

    In April 2016, the city entered into a 20-year intergovernmental agreement that city leaders signed with Pueblo County in April 2016. The agreement called on Colorado Springs to spend $460 million in that time on stormwater projects – lest Pueblo County leaders put a halt to the city’s prized Southern Delivery Project…

    Mayor John Suthers…campaigned hard for the measure – stressing that using the extra money now would help the city meet funding requirements in the Pueblo deal during lean years.

    The city must spend roughly $17 million a year on stormwater to meet its agreement.

    Easton said Tuesday’s results showed that voters are more aware of stormwater issues facing the city, and they’re more trusting of city officials to deliver.

    A renewed and expanded “Forests to Faucets” partnership

    Graphic credit Geocaching.com

    From KUNC (Desmond O’Boyle):

    The Forests to Faucets partnership originally began in 2010 as a response to a series of wildfires, namely the 1996 Buffalo Creek and 2002 Hayman wildfires. Since its inception, the partnership’s goals have grown to not only reduce catastrophic wildfires, but to also restore forests impacted by reservoirs, erosion and beetle devastation. On Monday, Feb 27, Forests to Faucets was granted a $33 million extension to continue its ongoing projects.

    Lawrence Lujan is the regional press officer for the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service, one of the organizations involved in the partnership. He says the specific strategies will be identified in a 5-year plan.

    “Some of the tools in the toolbox include, thinning, prescribed fire, replanting trees, especially in areas that have been impacted by previous fires,” said Lujan. “We’ll be decommissioning roads, taking actions to minimize erosion and sedimentation of reservoirs.”

    Locations for forest restoration and wildfire fuels reduction projects include Dillon, Strontia Springs, Gross, Antero, Eleven Mile Canyon, Cheesman and Williams Fork reservoirs. The partnership anticipates treating more than 40,000 acres of land…

    The $33 million investment comes from an initial $16.5 million from Denver Water, targeting critical watersheds. Of that, the U.S. Forest Service will receive $11.5 million, the CSFS will receive $3 million and the NRCS will receive $2 million. Each entity will match Denver Water’s funding, for a total of $33 million.