SDS still needed if Banning Lewis Ranch sold for oil and gas exploration, officials say

JOHN SCHROYER Updated: June 29, 2011 at 12:00 am • Published: June 29, 2011

The long-standing expectation of residential development at Banning Lewis Ranch was a selling point used by Colorado Springs Utilities when it was gathering support for the Southern Delivery System water pipeline. But now that the ranch appears headed for a sale for oil and gas development, that particular use may be canceled out, at least in the near term.

Still, SDS spokeswoman Janet Rummel said, that doesn’t change the need for the pipeline.

“Even if you didn’t develop the Banning Lewis Ranch, you’re still going to have to serve a growing population in El Paso County,” said Rummel. “(SDS) was never intended to serve one particular area of the community.”

Colorado Springs City Council President Scott Hente, who also chairs the Utilities board, agreed with Rummel.

“Even if Banning Lewis didn’t exist, even if that was wiped off the face of Colorado Springs, we still need SDS,” he said. “There’s other ways to grow besides Banning Lewis. There’s areas to the north that are going to expand.”

Utilities officials have said SDS also is needed to provide redundancy for the city’s aging water delivery system.

Construction of SDS is under way, including work on the pipeline connection at Pueblo Dam. SDS will move water from Pueblo Reservoir through a 62-mile pipeline to a water treatment plant near the intersection of Marksheffel Road and U.S. Highway 24, SDS’s final destination. Work on a nine-mile section of the pipeline has begun in southern El Paso County, and a mile of underground pipe has been laid at the water treatment plant.

In addition, Utilities has borrowed money and secured all the necessary permits for the project, which will cost an estimated $2.3 billion in its first phase, and the Colorado Springs City Council has approved 12 percent water rate hikes for 2011 and 2012.

Water rates are expected to double by 2016 in part to pay for SDS.

Contact the writer 476-4825.

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