What lies ahead in EPA's lawsuit against Colorado Springs?

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This channel moves water from the neighborhoods north and east of Austin Bluffs Parkway and Academy Boulevard and meets up with Templeton Gap Floodway at Union Boulevard. Trees growing through the concrete pretty much guarantee the concrete won't hold up for long. - PHOTOS BY PAM ZUBECK
  • Photos by Pam Zubeck
  • This channel moves water from the neighborhoods north and east of Austin Bluffs Parkway and Academy Boulevard and meets up with Templeton Gap Floodway at Union Boulevard. Trees growing through the concrete pretty much guarantee the concrete won't hold up for long.
In this week's Independent, we take a closer look at the lawsuit filed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the state against Colorado Springs over its neglect of stormwater facilities. ("Burden of proof," News, Aug. 23, 2017)

This is important in light of the City Council's vote on Aug. 22 to refer a measure to voters at the Nov. 7 election that would impose fees to handle drainage projects. Residents would pay $5 a month, whether they live in a palatial mansion or a studio apartment. All other property owners would pay $30 an acre, except for certain tracts larger than five acres that have a lot of grass or vegetative coverings, such as golf courses (think The Broadmoor) and grassy athletic fields. Those acreages will be assigned fees by the stormwater manager.

Councilor Bill Murray is skeptical of the measure, calling it unfair to residents. For example, he notes, the city will collect $5 each from apartment dwellers in an apartment complex that covers three acres, yielding $1,500 a month in fees. But a three-acre car dealership will pay only $30 per acre, or a total of $90.

He's also nonplussed that everyone is picking up a tab largely caused, he says, by developers shirking their obligations from years past. "You're not holding people accountable for their crimes," he says.

But as Mayor John Suthers told us, the time to go back on the developers has long passed. The city accepted the infrastructure and has failed to take care of it.
Farther down that channel, debris gets caught in branches of trees and impedes stormwater flows, not to mention pollutes the water way. There are likely hundreds of spots like this throughout the city.
  • Farther down that channel, debris gets caught in branches of trees and impedes stormwater flows, not to mention pollutes the water way. There are likely hundreds of spots like this throughout the city.
A key complaint in the lawsuit filed last year by the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is maintenance. Here's one example (bold emphasis added):

The City failed since at least February 4, 2013, to ensure that public and private development and redevelopment plans for permanent BMPs [best management practices] were submitted to the City’s Engineering Development Review (“EDR”) staff with the required design plans – including required inspection and maintenance plans (“IM”) and maintenance agreements (“MA”) – prior to approval and issuance of grading permits, in violation of the Permit and City Code....

Even when public and private development and redevelopment plans for permanent BMPs were submitted to the City’s EDR, this review has not been consistent with the requirements of the Permit, applicable provisions of DCM [Drainage Criteria Manual] Vol. 2, and Municipal Code.

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