by Pam Zubeck
Stormwater continues to be an albatross for the city of Colorado Springs.
Not only is the city not dealing with stormwater runoff, but the issue has kicked up a controversy over the Southern Delivery System pipeline.
Now, state Rep. Sal Pace, a Pueblo Democrat now running for Congress, issued a news release Monday calling for a halt to the SDS project until the city solves its runoff problem.
The city tried to solve the problem in 2007 by imposing fees on property owners, including nonprofits and churches, based on impervious surface, but residents followed Doug Bruce's lead in calling it a tax and voted in 2009 to overturn the Stormwater Enterprise.
Mayor Steve Bach has called on Colorado Springs Utilities to help fund stormwater needs, which total $300 million, to the tune of $15 million or so a year. You know, from all that extra cash Utilities has laying around. NOT. Utilities says it can't afford to carve out that much without doing a lot of damage to other functions of the four service operation.
Anyway, Pace, who's running for the Colorado District 3 House seat against Republican incumbent Scott Tipton, says in the release, "Because the entire Colorado Springs metro area watershed drains into Fountain Creek, any increase in water consumption in the Springs would threaten Pueblo, which sits on the confluence of Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River."
“According to your own environmental documents, the SDS will increase Fountain Creek flows by 40 percent,” Rep. Pace said in his letter today to Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach. “That increase will now take place without the protections in place that your city promised when you submitted the project to the Bureau of Reclamation for environmental review.”
“I call on Colorado Springs to immediately halt any construction of the Southern Delivery System until a permanent stormwater solution is found for your community that is comparable in scope to the Enterprise eliminated in 2009,” Rep. Pace wrote. “Temporarily stopping the project is the least that your city can do to guarantee the protections downstream communities morally and legally deserve.”
Pace also wrote a letter to Bach, which you can find here.
In response, Utilities spokeswoman Janet Rummel issued this statement:
The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and ROD for SDS were the culmination of an extensive, scientific study of potential project impacts that took nearly six years and $17 million to complete. The analysis which included input from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concluded that, even when fully operational, SDS return flows will have a negligible impact on peak flow volumes in Fountain Creek associated with storm flows. Further, there are measures in place in our SDS permits to adequately address any potential increase in future flows on Fountain Creek related to the operation of SDS.
Representative Pace raised this issue previously and attached are letters from the Bureau of Reclamation, Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency addressing these concerns.
Colorado Springs Utilities supports responsible stormwater management because it ensures compliance with the City's permit requirements under the Clean Water Act, while protecting the health and safety of our citizens as well as our community’s infrastructure, including roads, bridges, communications lines, and wastewater lines, to name a few.
We strongly believe that a county-wide solution is the most effective way to protect our citizens and our infrastructure. Such an approach would ensure that all residents who contribute to stormwater runoff in our shared waterways are also contributing to the required investment to address those issues. Stormflows come from more sources in our County than Colorado Springs Utilities customers, and our customers should not be expected to solely invest in the required capital improvements to protect City and County infrastructure along area drainageways. Unmanaged storm flows outside of Colorado Springs city limits can jeopardize investments made within the city. Additionally, as we've seen from recent severe storms, stormwater management is needed for all the creeks and drainageways in our City and County, not just for addressing issues on Fountain Creek.
We recognize this is a complex issue, and Colorado Springs Utilities is already actively working with others in the region to identify an effective, fair and sustainable funding solution.