ROCKY FORD — Flood protection for the Lower Arkansas Valley should not be an afterthought.
That message was delivered to Colorado Springs Wednesday during a presentation about regional stormwater efforts in El Paso County to the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Protection District.
“We quibble about data. What I want to see is the problem fixed,” Lower Ark General Manager Jay Winner told Mark Pifher, point man for the Southern Delivery System.
Colorado Springs Utilities disputes the Lower Ark’s interpretation of state and federal data about water quality. The Lower Ark claims it shows higher flows have increased sedimentation and bacteria in Fountain Creek since Colorado Springs got rid of its stormwater enterprise in 2009.
Pifher countered that’s just because of higher peak flows in the past three years. Fountain Creek monitoring has begun and safeguards are built into the Bureau of Reclamation’s contract through an adaptive management program if unexpected pollution occurs, he said.
A stormwater task force and Mayor Steve Bach are close to coming to consensus and moving a stormwater issue to the 2014 ballot.
All of which served to aggravate Pueblo County members of the Lower Ark board:
“My heartburn is that the discussions center around the Black Forest and Waldo Canyon as far as Fountain Creek is concerned, but nothing for us” said Melissa Esquibel. “I don’t think anything substantive has happened.”
“It’s been a fractured thing up there since I was a commissioner. It almost doesn’t seem real. We’ve heard the same thing over and over and over,” said Anthony Nunez. “I have to say there is a small amount of trust.”
“We have to put limits on SDS until the stormwater issue is taken on,” said Reeves Brown.
Colorado Springs voters defeated a Doug Bruce measure in 2008 to make payment of stormwater fees voluntary by 30,000 votes, but City Council abolished the stormwater enterprise after a second ballot measure that did not even mention it by name passed in 2009, Winner said.
While Bruce campaigned against a “rain tax,” the 2009 Proposition specifically tried to sever utility payments from the Colorado Springs general fund. Council has not ended Utilities payment in lieu of taxes, Pifher said in response to a question by Winner.
Pifher said stormwater fees would be collected again beginning as soon as 2015 if voters approve it in 2014. That didn’t do much to allay fears.
“You got what you needed and the stormwater enterprise went away,” Winner said. “Do you see the pattern here?”
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