Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Stormwater task force again aims to solve problem

Posted By on Tue, Aug 21, 2012 at 2:57 PM

Sand Creek. The stream bed should be about four-five feet higher.
  • Sand Creek. The stream bed should be about four-five feet higher.

Stormwater is officially back on the table.

In a meeting this morning hosted by El Paso County Board of Commissioners Chair Amy Lathen and City Councilor Brandy Williams, various county and city staff once again spoke about the need to throw hundreds of millions into drainage projects and maintenance.

The meeting was held outdoors along Sand Creek, near Airport Road and Academy Boulevard, where stormwater has ripped up about five feet of the stream bed, exposing water and gas pipes, leaving sewer pipes vulnerable, and laying bare the foundation of a major bridge. Stakeholders say the area is an important example of cooperation, since Colorado Springs Utilities has agreed to foot the costs of repairs and drop structures, while the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority is putting money in to repair the bridge and the Trails, Open Space, and Parks tax is paying for a new pedestrian trail along the stream.

Total cost: $2.1 million.

Speakers emphasized that it will take more of this kind of cooperation to solve the region's stormwater problems in coming years.

"We're putting a stake in the ground," Williams said. "We're going to work together."

The city and county have formed a Regional Stormwater Task Force (which is open to all communities along Fountain Creek), and plans to gather information for now. By the end of the year, the task force hopes to have a list of all the stormwater needs, their costs, and how much money each government has to offer toward the cause.

It's somewhat puzzling that this is the first task of the group, given that the Fountain Creek Watershed District already commissioned a study on that subject, and announced its findings recently. The main finding: A new source of funding is desperately needed.

But the task force has other goals too. It hopes to create awareness of the problems caused by stormwater — the region is already hundreds of millions of dollars behind on projects, and the erosion problems caused by the Waldo Canyon Fire are already exacerbating the problem. Lathen noted that many people don't see stormwater as their problem unless their homes or businesses are threatened by flooding or erosion. But it's everybody's problem, she said.

"I guarantee that what's coming out of your neighborhood is impacting somebody somewhere else," she said.

In addition to the task force's work, City Public Works Director Helen Migchelbrink will be working to rewrite development codes so that new developments better accommodate today's stormwater needs.

Those in the audience seemed most concerned about something being done about stormwater quickly. One woman noted that erosion had already claimed part of her yard. Another said she and her neighbors live in fear of severe flooding, which many have already experienced.

Julie Ann Woods, director of the Pueblo County Planning Department, wanted to know what the time schedule was to get projects started. She said she'd be watching the progress closely.

Pueblo has been crying foul since Springs voters eliminated funding for the city's Stormwater Enterprise, which was a vital bargaining chip when Pueblo and Colorado Springs agreed on the terms of the Southern Delivery System water pipeline being built by Colorado Springs Utilities. That project could be in jeopardy if Colorado Springs can't get a handle on its stormwater problems.

The new task force will meet again in September.

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