Last night, after a three hour hearing, The Pueblo County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve Colorado Springs’ proposed Southern Delivery System, which will deliver water from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs.
The $1.2 billion project, which will also benefit Pueblo West and Fountain, was approved subject to a long list of conditions.
The most significant of these will require Colorado Springs, and Colorado Springs Utilities, to contribute $50 million to the restoration and flood mitigation along Fountain Creek, as well as to spend $75 million upgrading the city’s wastewater infrastructure during the next 15 years.
The day before the hearing, the Pueblo Board of Water Works approved two agreements with CSU that guarantee water in times of low flows, and provides for sharing the outlets on the dam face from which water will flow to users.
The Colorado Springs city council must now approve the agreement and decide which of the two approved pipeline routes CSU will build.
Utilities officials were jubilant after the commissioners approved the project.
“It was good that the mayor, the vice mayor, and councilmember Margaret Radford were there to see this moment,” said CSU Chief Water Services Officer Bruce McCormick, who has led the project with SDS Manager John Fredell since its inception more than a decade ago.
“Ms. Radford has devoted her council career to this project, and it was wonderful to have her see it approved on virtually the last day of her term,” McCormick said. “And, it was very moving to hear Commissioner Jeff Chostner say that that this is the way to rebuild relationships between the two cities.”
Chostner also recognized the vote’s value to the relationship between the two cities.
“This is a tremendous accomplishment to make Fountain Creek an amenity,” he said. “It is a miracle that this has happened. We are on the verge of re-forming a relationship between Colorado Springs and Pueblo where we work as partners.”
Colorado Springs City Council is expected to formally accept the conditions early next month.
“We would need a public hearing, which won’t happen until at least two weeks from our meeting next Tuesday,” said Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera.
It’s unclear when construction on the deliver system could begin.
“That’s the $64,000 question,” McCormick said, noting that the agreement calls for the project to start within 42 months and that investments in Fountain Creek mitigation must start sooner than that.
He acknowledged that the start date would be influenced by local and national economic conditions, and particularly by forecasts of future regional growth.