Thursday, January 5, 2012

UPDATE: New SDS gun in town

Posted By on Thu, Jan 5, 2012 at 2:48 PM

Springs Utilities has provided an explanation of the role of the new hire, Mark Pifher, as follows:

Mark Pifher has been hired for a new position as the SDS Permitting and Compliance Manager. With construction activities well under way in El Paso and Pueblo counties, there are an increasing number of construction-specific permits we must acquire, in addition to the extensive environmental monitoring and mitigation plans and projects required for compliance with the federal, state and local permits we’ve secured.

Mark’s experience and expertise in the water industry will be a tremendous asset to the SDS project. He has served as the Director of Aurora Water since 2008 where he has played a crucial role in the permitting and construction of the Prairie Waters project, which came in ahead of schedule and under budget. He previously served as Director of the Colorado Water Quality Control Division and as lead water counsel for Colorado Springs Utilities on the Homestake Project.

————— ORIGINAL POST, THURSDAY, 12:06 p.m. ————-


Colorado Springs Utilities has hired the former director of water works in Aurora to work on the controversial Southern Delivery System water pipeline being built from Pueblo Reservoir.

Mark Pifher actually was associated with Springs Utilities years ago as an attorney working on water rights, and he's been around the water scene for years in various roles. But we'll let the expert tell you about him. Here's Pueblo Chieftain reporter Chris Woodka's story:

Mark Pifher, director of Aurora Water since 2008, is leaving that post Friday to work on the Southern Delivery System for Colorado Springs.

Pifher was at the helm when Aurora built Prairie Waters, a $650 million project that recycles sewer return flows from the South Platte River near Brighton to Aurora Reservoir. The project includes a well filtration field, underground pipeline and treatment plant and will be used by other Denver-area water suppliers through the WISE partnership, which includes Denver and 14 smaller water districts.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work on another large project,” Pifher said. “Both projects maximize the utilization of existing supplies through the reuse of water, and therefore minimize the need to go out and dry up even more farmland or move more water through transmountain diversions.”

Initially, Pifher will work on SDS and other projects as assigned, said Gary Bostrom, chief of water services for Colorado Springs Utilities.

“Given his background, we’re pleased to have Mark back with us,” Bostrom said, noting that Pifher worked on water rights issues as an attorney for Colorado Springs earlier in his career.

Pifher’s years with Aurora were marked with controversy as well as accomplishment.

Aurora has purchased farmland in Otero, Crowley and Lake counties over the past 30 years and takes water out of the Arkansas River basin through the Homestake Project pipeline. Aurora also obtained a controversial contract with the Bureau of Reclamation in 2007 to store and move water at Lake Pueblo, which is part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District sued the Bureau of Reclamation in federal court shortly after the decision to issue the contract, but settled with Aurora in 2009. That agreement enforces limits put on Aurora under 2003 agreements with the Upper Arkansas and Southeastern water conservancy districts, while pledging Aurora’s cooperation with Ark Valley projects such as Super Ditch.

Aurora also agreed to drop its claims for inclusion in federal legislation to enlarge Lake Pueblo and Turquoise Lake, a sticking point for the past decade. New legislation still has not been proposed.

Aurora, along with Climax Mines, also purchased the Columbine Ditch from the Pueblo Board of Water Works under Pifher’s leadership. The move allowed the Pueblo water board to raise capital toward purchase of Bessemer Ditch shares.

Pifher also has served on the Interbasin Compact Committee, which was formed in 2005 to hash out state water issues. Early on, Pifher worked closely with the Arkansas Basin Roundtable to discuss water issues.

Pifher, who lives in Colorado Springs, joined Aurora in 2005 as deputy director, after serving as director of the Colorado Water Quality Control Division. He was promoted to replace Peter Binney in 2008. Binney now works as a water consultant.

Dan Mikesell will act as interim director of Aurora Water until a replacement is named.

Southern Delivery got under construction last year but got a sucker punch when most of the Banning Lewis Ranch, a residential and commercial development originally said to be a big reason for the pipeline, was sold to an oil drilling company from Texas, Ultra Resources.

Utilities folks insist that even without Banning Lewis, the pipeline is needed for "redundancy," a pitch that materialized as the project evolved but development of Banning Lewis didn't.

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