Appeals court overturns SDS water-quality ruling

The Southern Delivery System has had its day in court – and it was successful.

The Colorado Court of Appeals reversed a Pueblo County judge’s ruling against a state water quality certification for the SDS project, which will bring water from the Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs, the biggest water project in decades for Colorado Springs Utilities. The multi-million project is well underway, with miles of pipeline already finished and construction started on water treatment plants

The appeals court ruled that the state Water Quality Control Commission was correct in approving the SDS water quality certification, according to a press release from Colorado Springs Utilities.

The decision reverses Pueblo County District Court Judge Victor Reyes’ April 2012 ruling against the Water Quality Control Commissions’ unanimous decision approving the 401 water quality certification.

“We are pleased that the Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled in support of the 401 water quality certification for SDS,” said John Fredell, SDS program director. “We always believed that the state Water Quality Control Division did a thorough and complete evaluation of SDS and correctly decided that it would meet State water quality standards.  We are pleased that the Court of Appeals has recognized that. It is unfortunate that this matter had to be resolved in the courts, which is a costly process and one that goes against our approach of collaborating with other local governments and stakeholders.”

SDS was required to obtain a water quality certification from the Water Quality Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in conjunction with obtaining a dredge-and-fill permit for the project under the Clean Water Act.  The CDPHE Water Quality Control Division certified that the construction and operation of the project would comply with all applicable state water quality requirements.  The division issued that certification with conditions, and in April 2010, the Water Quality Control Commission unanimously upheld the certification.

Bill Thiebaut, the Pueblo County District Attorney at the time, and The Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition appealed the Commission’s decision in Pueblo County District Court. In April 2012, Reyes ruled against the Commission’s decision.  The state and Colorado Springs appealed the District Court’s decision to the Colorado Court of Appeals, which issued today’s decision overruling the District Court and upholding the original 401 certification.