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Sep 20, 2013 11:38 PM by Tony Spehar -

Flooding issues in Pueblo County raise debate about future of SDS pipeline

Flooding and damage from recent storms has sparked debate about the future of the Southern Delivery System (SDS) pipeline in Pueblo County.

The SDS pipeline is designed to bring water from Lake Pueblo up to Colorado Springs and other communities north of the Pueblo Dam, it's a project years in the making that is scheduled to be finished in 2016. However, during recent rainstorms land along the pipeline's proposed path where work is being done has begun to flood and landowners say it's because of the construction. Walker Ranch is private property where a stretch of the SDS pipeline is to be built and where flood damage has been heavy, Christopher Turner is an attorney for the ranch owners and says the problem started in 2008 and 2009 when plans were first drawn up.

"They took a map, they drew a straight line, no matter how high or low and didn't listen to Mr. Walker," explained Turner. "The rancher who knew his property for 50-years, who had said multiple times 'follow the Fountain Valley pipeline that's been here for 50-years and we will have no flooding issues.'"

The result, according to Turner and his client, is deep ravines carved out by water that weren't there before construction of the SDS pipeline called for clearing vegetation and cutting a path for the pipe. Turner said the issue could turn Walker Ranches into a flood plain that will threaten houses in Pueblo West and power lines running along the route of the pipeline.

"We get a small rain and we see this immediately," he described pointing to a large ravine. "Huge areas of land washed away, getting very close to good residents of Pueblo County who may not even know that their property is very close to these soon to be flood plains."

The land-use permits allowing Colorado Springs Utilities to build the 66-inch diameter pipeline across private property state that the land must be returned to its original condition. Turner and his client say that won't be possible if the flooding issue isn't dealt with and are calling for county commissioners to get CSU to fix the problem or halt the project.

"We need to find out how to fix it or we may not turn the switch on," Turner said of the SDS pipeline, claiming it would be very difficult to get the flooding issue resolved once the pipeline is constructed and put into use.

It's a dilemma in the hands of Pueblo County Commissioners who have to decide whether or not to shut-down the $1-billion project. At a public hearing about the project on Friday SDS project leaders said they're working to resolve problems.

"We're coming through a lot of people's backyards and we want to work on the issues that they have," explained SDS Program Director John Fredell.

Fredell said any issues could be dealt with without shutting-down the project, which he said was too important to stop.

"So we have this additional mechanism to bring water to our communities," he said. "Water is what all communities are built around."

Pueblo County Commissioners took no action on the issue on Friday, but may in the future.



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