July 6, 2008

Proposed Water Pipeline Gets Negative Feedback: 400 Comments Are Full of Sharp Criticism for Proposed Pipeline

By Pam Zubeck, The Gazette, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Jul. 6--Colorado Springs' proposed $1 billion Southern Delivery System came under sharp criticism in the nearly 400 comments submitted to a federal agency preparing an environmental report on the water pipeline project.

Among them are concerns about the degradation of Fountain Creek, destruction of archaeological artifacts, energy use and water quality in the Arkansas River downstream.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently released written comments after conducting six public meetings and extending the comment period for 45 days through June on the project's Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The bureau is involved because Colorado Springs Utilities proposes to pump water it already owns from Pueblo Reservoir, a federal facility.

Colorado Springs officials hope the comments don't delay the project or trigger major changes in the bureau's findings, which identified the city's idea of pumping water from Pueblo Reservoir to northeast Colorado Springs as the preferred option.

Unless a significant impediment arises, the bureau is expected to issue a decision early next year, which would clear the way for construction to begin on the 43-mile pipeline that would supply water by 2012 to Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West.

Federal officials are studying the comments for "any new scientific data or environmental information that we haven't seen before, to be sure we've considered everything that we need to consider," bureau spokeswoman Kara Lamb said.

Springs Utilities' analysis of the comments found 78 favored the city's preferred alternative. It was the highest number of favorable comments for any one of the seven options.

Thirty-one favored a plan that would draw water from below where Fountain Creek flows into the Arkansas River, the proposal favored by many in Pueblo, including pipeline opponent Pueblo Chieftain publisher Bob Rawlings.

Doubts were raised by several, including residents of Colorado Centre Metropolitan District east of the city, who fear that Jimmy Camp Creek Reservoir, to be built in northeast Colorado Springs, poses a flood threat.

Councilman Tom Gallagher faulted the project for needing 683 megawatt hours of power per day by 2046, almost as much as is now generated for the entire city.

"They should have looked at the method that didn't require pumps," he said, referring to a gravity siphon system that would work "just like taking gasoline out of somebody's gas tank."

Asked why he filed comments critical of the city's proposal, Gallagher said, "My job is to support the people of this community for the best long-term solution."

Utilities officials counter that the preferred option uses less power than other alternatives.

Fort Carson didn't oppose the pipeline but noted two of the seven alternatives that would cross the post failed to adequately study the project's impact on wildlife and other natural resources. The Army also noted no formal written agreements are in place regarding the Army's ability to accommodate the project.

Utilities environmental manager Keith Riley said the National Environmental Policy Act process has cost ratepayers $14 million. He said although the project's environmental impacts "aren't huge," the bureau designed the study to be extensive because of "political pressure and opposition we've seen coming out of Pueblo from the beginning."

The goal is for the bureau's decision to be "very defensible," Riley said.

Rep. Mark Udall, D-El Dorado Springs, suggested in a recent letter to the bureau that a lawsuit could be filed by downstream users.

Riley said city officials are studying the public comments but the city's approach won't change.

"Our approach has been and will continue to be to find ways to avoid impacts and for those that are unavoidable to find options to mitigate impacts to the environment," he said.

As for archaeological features, Utilities officials said ample time exists prior to the reservoir's construction to accommodate exploration and preservation.

CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0238 or [email protected]


A sample of comments submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement:

- Kirk Johnson, chief curator, Denver Museum of Nature & Science: "The EIS does not adequately assess the valuable early Paleocene plant, mammal and reptile fossils that are known to occur in the Jimmy Camp Creek valley."

- R.H. Rawlings, Pueblo Chieftain publisher: "The EIS glosses over the Fountain Creek threat. ... That the EIS utterly fails to deal objectively and dispassionately with real threats to life and property along the Fountain Creek channel provokes our contempt and condemnation."

- Ivo Fronzaglia, Colorado Springs resident: "Tell Pueblo City Council and the Pueblo Chieftain to stop blocking our efforts to get what is rightly ours."

- Don Schley, Aeon Project Development, Colorado Springs: The public environmental process "was controlled in favor of the applicant's preferences, and real information to the contrary was suppressed."

- Beth Kosley, Colorado Springs Downtown Partnership: "It is estimated that by 2050, the population will exceed 800,000. We will have increasing water needs ... and the preferred alternative meets those needs in the most fiscally responsible manner."

- Jack Gillespie, Pueblo resident: Colorado Springs should further explore treatment for reuse. "Even though the bureau has now wasted some $12 million of Colorado Springs' money on superficial studies, I urge the bureau to reject the proposal and refrain from further encouraging the abuse to the human environment of others who live in contact with and depend upon the Arkansas River."

- David Barfield, chief engineer, State of Kansas: "In our review of the DEIS, we did not find any reference to the need for compliance with the Arkansas River Compact, which has been extensively litigated between the states of Colorado and Kansas."

- Banning Lewis Ranch Co. (developer of 20,000 acres in northeast Colorado Springs): Use of the Jimmy Camp Creek area for a reservoir violates the 1988 annexation agreement.

- Lionel Rivera, Colorado Springs mayor: "Clean, dependable water is vital to the future economic viability of our community." Increased flows in Fountain Creek won't cause flooding, and the preferred alternative is the most energy efficient of the alternatives studied.


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