by Pam Zubeck
Under the IGA, the City and Utilities will expend a minimum of $460 million over the next 20 years on a stormwater control program, including capital improvement projects, operation and maintenance of the City’s stormwater facilities, compliance with the City’s Clean Water Act MS4 Permit, and protection of Utilities’ infrastructure from stormwater.That's $15 million more than offered in early March and rejected by Pueblo County, according to Mayor John Suthers' comments to the Gazette last month. The backup materials don't say where the money is coming from, however.
PUEBLO – After a year and half of vigorous negotiations directed by the Pueblo County Board of County Commissioners, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, and Colorado Springs City Council and its Utilities, the parties believe they have reached a tentative Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) on the mitigation of stormwater flows on Fountain Creek.
Commissioner Liane “Buffie” McFadyen stated, “When Colorado Springs was issued the 1041 permit they committed to do their part to improve Fountain Creek. After years of Colorado Springs’ failure to honor that commitment we finally have a deal the citizens of Pueblo County can rely upon. After months of wrangling we now have guaranteed projects, guaranteed funding, and a mechanism for enforceability to back up the guarantees.”
After investigations by Pueblo County and the County’s hiring of Wright Water Engineers, Inc., who quantified Colorado Springs’ impacts on Fountain Creek and identified mitigation opportunities, significant commitments have been made by Colorado Springs for the benefit of Pueblo and downstream users. Colorado Springs Mayor Suthers accelerated the productivity of the negotiations and acknowledged Pueblo County’s concerns at public meetings with the Commissioners.
As a result of the defunding of the Colorado Springs’ Stormwater Enterprise (SWENT) in 2009, which was to generate about $15.2 million on average per year for stormwater mitigation, the proposed IGA commits Colorado Springs to spend at least $460 million throughout the next 20 years (an average of $23 million a year) to complete a list of 71 specific stormwater control projects, and to fund maintenance of Colorado Springs’ stormwater infrastructure and enforcement of its newly strengthened drainage regulations.
The proposed IGA also guarantees Pueblo County a significant role in the timing, prioritization, selection and verification of the dedicated stormwater mitigation projects, as well as establishing a strong mechanism for enforcement if Colorado Springs defaults on the IGA. “This IGA requires Colorado Springs to commit much more than SWENT for stormwater mitigation to address the past practices of overlooking the stormwater problems and to address future issues; much more than the previous $15.2 million,” Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace said.
If the approved stormwater projects are not completed by 2035, the agreement renews for an additional period not to exceed five years at an additional $26 million a year to complete the projects at a potential additional expenditure of at least $130 million. The agreement also calls for an additional $3 million to be contributed by Colorado Springs Utilities to protect the levees on Fountain Creek within the City of Pueblo (in addition to the $2.2 million previously contributed under Pueblo County’s 1041 Permit for the Southern Delivery System (SDS)), and $125,000 to be contributed to the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District (FCWFCGD) to help fund operations and studies including studying a potential dam.
The proposed IGA also accelerates the payment of the $50 million payments for Fountain Creek mitigation required by the County’s 1041 Permit. The first payment to the FCWFCGD of about $9.6 million will be due within 30 days of the execution of the IGA, with subsequent payments of about $10 million each year thereafter due on January 15 of the years 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. The funds can be used to construct flood control dams and other sediment and erosion controls on Fountain Creek below Colorado Springs for the benefit of Pueblo County residents and landowners.
“These immediate payments to the District are desperately needed to study the possibility of, and to potentially construct, a dam on Fountain Creek – this is our opportunity to comprehensively evaluate all options to protect the citizens of Pueblo,” said Commissioner Terry Hart.
The IGA would accelerate and facilitate prompt completion of engineering studies and improvements to Fountain Creek, while avoiding the delays and expenses of potential litigation between the parties. Commissioner Hart added, “We’ve been able to bring Colorado Springs to the table and we’ve gotten hard-won, hard-fought commitments on their part to improve Fountain Creek. These total commitments by Colorado Springs to Pueblo County for environmental mitigation are now in excess of $605 million. We’ve more than tripled the explicit financial commitments of the 1041 permit.”
The Pueblo County Board of County Commissioners and Colorado Springs City Council will consider final approval of the IGA in the month of April, prior to the commencement of SDS. To allow the citizens of Pueblo input, the Commissioners instructed staff on Monday to schedule a work session for Monday, April 18, 2016 at 1:30 p.m. in Commissioners Chambers, and directed staff to publish the draft IGA on the County’s website at: http://county.pueblo.org/sites/default/files/Proposed%20IGA%202016-04-11%20Clean%20with%20exhibits%20.pdf