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EDITORIAL: Big government lawyers threaten clean water

By: The Gazette editorial board
May 19, 2017 Updated: May 19, 2017 at 11:09 am
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Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, the City Council and local taxpayers are on a mission to protect the environment and downstream water. Hard-hat workers had shovels in the ground this week, and taxpayer money was flowing for the cause.

Anyone who cares about clean water and Mother Earth will get out of the way and allow progress to continue.

Those with less pure motives will interfere.

Take, for example, state and federal authorities who are resolute in slowing this work. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment press forward with a vengeful, predatory lawsuit that threatens water quality and the environment.

They don't seem to care about clean water.

"They seem very intent on very expensive discovery and all that sort of thing," Suthers said, as quoted in a Gazette news story by Jakob Rodgers about recent improvements to drainage facilities. "I really do think this issue could be resolved."

Of course it could, but only by those who care about results.

The lawsuit, which could cost tens of millions, seeks exactly the progress underway.

Work on a Logan Avenue storm drain this week marked the first of 26 projects outlined in a ballot measure voters overwhelmingly approved in April. It is part of $460 million in improvements pledged by Suthers over the next 20 years.

Colorado Springs has experienced explosive growth, doubling in population over the past three decades. As such, the community has outgrown the capacity of its old stormwater drainage system.

Political shenanigans of a former incarnation of City Council, 12 years ago, led to a delay in upgrades and expansion of the system. Environmentalists and downstream communities understandably became concerned. The Springs aggressively committed to resolving those concerns at great expense.

By approving the April ballot measure, taxpayers gave up $12 million in rebates this year to fund immediate work. By approving a transportation tax, voters liberated more longterm funds for stormwater.

Federal and state lawyers sued the city only after Suthers committed big money to improvements. With a half-billion on the table, it appears plaintiffs want their cut at the environment's expense. They have positioned themselves as obstructionists.

Rather than enhancing the process, the lawsuit can only slow improvements and reduce their scope. Money and resources wasted by the lawsuit cannot be used to protect downstream water.

Colorado Springs is doing the work and spending the money, and anyone can see it.

If state and federal bureaucrats impede this work, channeling money to their agencies and lawyers, they can take blame for future environmental problems downstream from the Springs.

Just remember, they are from the government and are here to help.

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