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Welcome to ‘Pueblo West mud flats’

Recent rains have made a mess of the Southern Delivery System pipeline route through Pueblo County on Walker Ranches.

Gary Walker might feel vindicated, since the problems with the route that he pointed out over years of SDS hearings are coming to pass.

But he’s more likely miserable, because the damages are becoming more costly with each new storm as hillsides crossed by the pipeline erode.

“They still haven’t hit the gully washer of two-plus inches,” Walker said. “When that happens, part of Walker Ranches will be in Pueblo West and there will be a few new public attractions: the Walker Gorge and the Pueblo West Mud Flats.”

Walker is hoping for action Friday from the Pueblo County commissioners that will hold Colorado Springs Utilities to its commitments under a 1041 land-use permit issued in 2009. A public meeting on the 1041 conditions will be at 9 a.m. Friday at the Pueblo County Courthouse.

Those conditions require the disturbed property to be restored to the condition it was prior to pipeline construction.

For its part, Utilities says it is working on the issues raised by Walker.

“We’ve already agreed to do 18 mitigations,” said Mark Pifher, Utilities point man for SDS permit issues. “After the storms in August, we flew the entire pipeline route and came up with 20 more.”

Walker said that shouldn’t have been necessary if proper actions would have been taken along the way. He did not want to elaborate on the specific suggestions because he still is involved in condemnation hearings in district court, but said less costly fixes would have been possible before pipe was put into the ground.

“Colorado Springs Utilities has met with us umpteen times in the last 15 months since I discovered the first problem in June of last year,” Walker said. “They have been great at talking to us, but have done nothing but give us lip service. There has not been one thing done to fix the problem.”

The 66-inch diameter pipeline runs from Pueblo Dam through Pueblo West and Walker Ranches along a 50-mile route to Colorado Springs. The $940 million first phase of the SDS project is expected to be completed in 2016, and will deliver water to Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West.

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