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Costs could soar for Southern Delivery System

The cost of Colorado Springs' Southern Delivery System pipe project may outstrip its $1 billion estimate, city leaders learned last week.

The controversial project, designed to provide enough water for the city until 2046, may need twice the amount of pipe as has been anticipated.

The original plan for SDS would pump water north to the Springs from Pueblo Reservoir, then send treated wastewater back down Fountain Creek to the Arkansas River. But in initial survey results of a multi-year environmental impact study, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says it would consider sending treated wastewater not down the creek, but down another pipe, directly to the river.

Pat Mangan, a project manager for the bureau, unveiled five project alternatives at a meeting of the City Council-staffed Utilities board last week. Four of the five involved return-flow piping. Gary Bostrom, senior project manager for Colorado Springs Utilities, says the resulting cost will be significantly higher, though he does not yet have any estimates.

But some council members have expressed relief that the bureau recommended against two alternatives that have been touted by the Southern Delivery System's most outspoken critics.

Developer Mark Morley has suggested pumping water along Highway 115 from Fremont County. Meanwhile, Pueblo Chieftain publisher Bob Rawlings has pushed a plan that would have the Springs draw its water from below the Fountain Creek confluence, forcing the city to reuse its water.

Neither option, Mangan says, appears feasible. Still, both will be included among seven options to be debated in town hall meetings scheduled across southern Colorado starting this week.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't pleased," says City Councilwoman Margaret Radford, a chief proponent of the Southern Delivery System.

Morley still maintains that the Highway 115 option, which would involve expanding Brush Hollow Reservoir to store water, would save the city $500 million.

Rawlings says he isn't deterred by the initial findings, adding that he would prefer Colorado Springs just recycle its wastewater.

-- Dan Wilcock

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