‘I consider this the poster child’: Colorado Springs mayor celebrates progress on storm water infrastructure

As a $4.6 million wraps up, the city of Colorado Springs is celebrating progress on a project that began as a lawsuit and audit.
Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 6:32 PM MDT|Updated: Mar. 14, 2023 at 5:01 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - A project that began with a lawsuit against the city of Colorado Springs is expected to wrap by the end of March.

Mayor John Suthers met with Stormwater Enterprise Manager Richard Mulledy at North Douglass Creek Monday morning to celebrate the progress. The restoration project for this specific area cost a total of $4.6 million. It’s part of a larger project to improve the city’s storm water infrastructure, which began as a lawsuit from Pueblo.

According to city officials, the EPA audited the city’s Separate Storm Sewer System permit. This was due, according to Suthers, to a crumbling infrastructure. This led to a court case from Pueblo. According to Pueblo, Colorado Springs was not meeting certain requirements of public safety outlined in the cities’ inter-governmental agreement.

According to Suthers, this problem began before the audit and lawsuit in 2013.

“Unfortunately, in 2009, [political activist] Douglas Bruce ran a kind of ... ‘stop the rain tax,’” Mayor Suthers said. “Voters did away with the stormwater fee.”

From here, he said, the city went from spending about $15 million a year on stormwater infrastructure to maybe $3 million. This is what the mayor blames on the infrastructure issues that led to the lawsuit.

As part of the inter-governmental agreement and lawsuit with Pueblo County, Colorado Springs committed $460 million over 20 years to spend on public safety and infrastructure.

According to the mayor, the city initially had a hard time meeting this, but in 2017, voters passed an expansion to the stormwater tax. Suthers said it took a while to convince voters this was an issue worth acting on.

“The citizens knew how bad our roads were, they can see that every day,” he said. “The average citizen doesn’t really know much about stormwater.”

It wasn’t until a poll was taken in the summer of 2017 that showed that a majority of voters said they would support a fee used for stormwater infrastructure. And that November, it passed.

From there, Richard Mulledy said the city got to work. The North Douglass Creek Channel Restoration is the last from the original audit, but is only one of 71 total projects the city is working on.

“We are about a quarter of the way through that, from a completion standpoint,” Mulledy said.

Another 25% of the projects are in the construction or design stages. He added that none of this would be possible without the voters.

“Just a huge thank you to the citizens from voting for that fee,” he said. “I mean that’s what he’s gone to allow us to fix these issues, address those problems and continue to build and maintain a better storm water infrastructure across our city.”

Suthers said this is one of the projects he’s most proud of in his tenure.

“In my opinion, and I feel strongly about this, we will have one of the best, if not the best storm water systems in Colorado in a very, very short period of time,” the mayor said.

Ultimately, the project not only protects properties around stormwater drainage sites from erosion, but the mayor added that it will keep Fountain and Monument Creeks clean, which could lead to more recreation in the future.

The funding and plans for the 71 projects lasts until 2037.