Obama administration signs off on Southern Delivery System pipeline

March 23, 2009

The Obama administration has issued final approval for Colorado Springs' $1.1 billion water pipeline, the Southern Delivery System.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced Monday it signed a record of decision, allowing Colorado Springs Utilities to build a pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir. The decision had been expected in mid-January, but the change in presidential administrations led to further review of the project.

The approval is one of dozens needed to build the system, though the agency's environmental review was also the most expansive of any, costing Utilities $17 million. The announcement comes at a time when, after 20 years in the planning process, the pipeline project now seems to be on the fast track to being built.

Last week, Pueblo County commissioners approved a list of conditions under which they would approve the pipeline, a major first step toward that county issuing a needed permit. Also last week, legislation to create a new watershed district for Fountain Creek seemed to be on the verge of approval, after passing the Senate and a House committee. Under Pueblo County's SDS conditions, Utilities would spend $50 million for projects to improve the creek.

"We're ecstatic. When you consider in one week that the Fountain Creek district passed the House Agriculture Committee, we got final approved conditions from Pueblo County and we've got this ROD signed, those are efforts that had been worked on for a number of years by our staff and many of our stakeholders and agencies," said Bruce McCormick, Utilities' chief water services officer.

Utilities also has approval from Fremont County to build a pipeline from there. The Colorado Springs City Council will have the final say on which route Utilities builds.

If Utilities opts to build through Fremont County, which would cost $150 million more than the Pueblo route, a new record of decision would have to be signed by the bureau.

Utilities officials have said they hope to begin construction this year.

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