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Voice of the reader: Kentucky won't help pay for our water

October 20, 2013 Updated: October 20, 2013 at 4:59 pm
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It raised eyebrows last week when it became known that as part of the deal that ended the federal government shutdown, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell was able to negotiate a nearly $3 billion plum for his neck of the woods - a project to upgrade locks on the Ohio River.

The project will help commerce on the river in general, and in particular it will help the American Electric Power Co., which operates the lock system for shipping on the river.

For better or worse, the shutdown deal won't kick any money in the direction of a Colorado utility that's in the midst of a billion-dollar water project. That would be Colorado Springs Utilities, which is building the Southern Delivery System, a water project that will greatly expand the Colorado Springs water system - without any federal help.

There was a time when the federal government, through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation, built many projects throughout America, subsidizing economic development far and wide.

It makes sense that the best places to build dams were used up first and as time went on, dam sites became less favorable, from a cost-benefit point of view.

In Colorado, federal projects include Pueblo Reservoir, Blue Mesa Reservoir and several others. But around the nation, the dam-building era came to a crashing halt in the 1970s, after the passage of many environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

But it was former President Jimmy Carter who enraged many westerners when in 1978 he released a hit list of 16 water projects, effectively cutting off federal money. When Carter was defeated by Ronald Reagan, some westerners thought the one-time governor of California would restore the federal subsidies for water projects.

Wrong. With a couple of exceptions, Reagan kept the federal money shut off for water projects. Since then, local water providers such as Colorado Springs have known better than to even ask for federal money.

That's why Colorado Springs ratepayers are looking at rate increases to pay for SDS. Uncle Sam and Kentucky are not going to help us.

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Contact Barry Noreen at 636-0363 or barry.noreen@gazette.com.

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