Colorado Springs Utilities’ massive water pipeline project hit a snag Thursday when a Pueblo County judge ordered a revision of a key state certification.

The crucial 401 certification, which has been battled over for two years, is headed back to the Colorado Public Health and Environment’s Water Quality Control Division. The division granted the certification for Utilities’ Southern Delivery System, a 62-mile-long pipeline, in April 2010.

Pueblo County Judge Victor Reyes upheld concerns about the project and reversed a January 2011 decision by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission to confirm the certification, according to Janet Rummel, a spokeswoman for the project.

The 401 certification is a prerequisite for the only remaining obstacle in the project’s completion — a 404 permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Reyes’ action came after a request for a judicial review from Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut.

“We are disappointed that the court disregarded several years of studies and evaluaton by federal and state environmental agencies and the extensive mitigation already required of the project,” Rummel wrote in an email.

Since 2010, the SDS project has battled with the Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition and Thiebaut over its 401 certification. Thiebaut and the coalition challenged the project’s certification when it was granted two years ago.

That appeal was lost, and in December 2010 SDS was given its certification and go-ahead for the project’s final steps.

The pipeline, already under construction, would pump Arkansas River water from the Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs, and would also bring water to Pueblo West, Fountain and Security along the way.

The coalition, a non-profit group that advocates for the protection of the environment and worker interests, has repeatedly raised issues about water quality and water rights with the SDS plan.

The results of Thursday’s judicial review put the certification process back where it was two years ago. But it appears that Colorado Springs Utilities is not done doing battle.

“We are currently evaluating our appeal rights and coordinating with the appropriate state and federal agencies,” Rummel wrote in an email.

Contact Ryan Maye Handy: 636-0261
Twitter @ryanmhandy