Citizens need to understand the magnitude and ecological consequences of Colorado Springs water projects before voting on Issue 2A this November. There is no question we need proper funding of stormwater management, but the scale of these projects, in a short period of time, is disturbing.
There are 71 projects slated to be completed by Water Resources Engineering department between 2016 and 2036. This does not include additional projects by Colorado Springs Utilities. Most involve substantial widening of natural stream corridors with attendant heavy deforestation of riparian vegetation that is used by breeding and migratory birds and other wildlife. Some projects mandate a certain degree of mitigation to replace that vegetation, but often this is minimal, and certainly does not include mature cottonwoods, willows and other trees. It takes decades for streams to recover from the impacts that occur as a result of water projects. By 2036 there may be no stream corridors capable of supporting wildlife in the Pikes Peak region, especially on the plains.
I live near the confluence of the West Fork of Sand Creek and the main channel of Sand Creek. A CSU water project on the West Fork will likely eradicate the only known population of the Filigree Skimmer dragonfly (Pseudoleon superbus) in the state of Colorado. I discovered the population in 2014 and it continues to be viable. I can only imagine how water projects elsewhere are compromising the biodiversity that is necessary for healthy waterways here.
The rush to complete these projects is of course in response to the lawsuit brought against the city by the Environmental Protection Agency. While we need to fix the problems, we need a far longer timeline and a multidisciplinary approach to mitigation. Currently it is pretty much a "one size fits all" mentality with the same strategies applied to all waterways regardless of their biodiversity.
At the least, I urge citizens to question the rapidity and magnitude of water projects here. City government and utilities need to be held accountable for their impacts on ecosystems we depend on for clean water, recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat.
— Eric R. Eaton, Colorado Springs
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