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Colorado Springs faces $2 million fine, $43 million in projects after proposed stormwater settlement

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Two years after a judge ruled that the city violated federal stormwater regulations on several occasions, the proposed penalty has been revealed.

The city would pay a fine of $2 million and commit to an additional $43 million in stormwater projects over 15 years, Mayor John Suthers announced earlier this week.

Suthers said "an agreement in principle" exists for a settlement between the city -- the defendant in the case -- and the plaintiffs including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Pueblo County and the lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

"We're now entering a 30-day comment period," he said. "At the end of it, the judge will evaluate whether he wants to approve the settlement. I suspect he will."

The mayor said that in the next few weeks, city officials will explain settlement details to the public, and that he already has City Council approval to pay the penalty.

"The federal government would get $1 million of the fine, and the state would get the other half," he said. "The state's share actually goes into a current project in the Arkansas River. That's a lot better than a $12 million fine that was initially discussed."

As a result of the penalty, however, Suthers said the city will have to raise its stormwater fee to homeowners and businesses over the next 15 years to pay the penalty.

"We'll start the process of determining that early next year," he said.

The mayor is relieved that most of the money, except for $125,000 in attorneys' fees, will be spent on stormwater projects and not a fine.

"I think it's very manageable," he said. "And even after we adjust fees, we'll still be paying less than most large cities."

Colorado Springs has been criticized, particularly by Pueblo County, for more than a decade for not doing enough to control drainage (stormwater) that caused sewer line breaks, erosion and poor water quality in Fountain Creek.

Suthers said the city's stormwater issues were a result of inaction by previous city councils, but upon his election as mayor in 2015 he pledged to address the issue and heal the rift between Pueblo County leaders, who had threatened to sue the city.

In fact, in the spring of 2016, Pueblo County agreed on a long-range plan in which the city would spend $460 million over 20 years on 71 stormwater projects, maintenance and enforcement.

To help generate the needed revenue, Suthers in 2017 pushed for the re-establishment of a stormwater fee ultimately passed by voters that November. A previous fee was rescinded in 2011 after complaints from property owners that the fee unfairly charged some customers more than others.

The city hoped its progress on stormwater issues would prevent a lawsuit, but in November 2016 the EPA initially filed suit and the other plaintiffs joined in. U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch presided over the weeklong bench trial in Denver in September 2018, and issued his ruling two months later.

Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.



  1. I think the Stormwater fee is a bunch of crap. I’ve always been against this. They make every one in town pay this fee, yet you have run off from way up North towards Denver or out East that comes down through the Springs, through Fountain (which they don’t have to pay), so why do they continue to keep building structures all over the place and the water isn’t able to seep into the ground and prevent run off. They cannot just increase this bullshit fee without the vote of the people and I for one, will vote against it again. They get plenty of money from the fee they get now from everyone.

  2. Sorry to disappoint you, but voter approval has already been given. 2A specifically allows the city council to adjust fees to meet stormwater-related legal obligations.

  3. If they would stop building sports arenas and Olympic related museums,
    The funds to upkeep our sewage and drainage systems intact.
    Are builders paying for the infrastructure when new housing is ready to be occupied?
    The city is NOT a good steward of our tax dollars.
    They are also using CARES funds on unauthorized items and projects..This was the mayor’s own idea.

    1. You are absolutely correct! 150 million for the USOC offices over 30 years. 50 million for Pikes Peak visitor center. 50 million for the “redevelopment district” for Olympic museum. 16 million tax break for Scheels. The list goes on and on. Notice a common thread- the developers! AKA Suther’s puppet masters! But unfortunately the voters are to ignorant or complacent to vote in change!

  4. From the day it was introduced, I always considered the “Stormwater Fee” to be a tax, since everyone is forced to pay it. So anything that raises that tax unnecessarily is something I object to, especially when it’s due to mishandling on the part of those whose job is to manage the use of those taxes.

    1. Fee or tax.. It really doesn’t matter. As long as I tell myself it’s “for the kids” I feel better.

  5. The city knows it has to pay the $43 million, however they blow money on the Olympic museum. Sorry Suthers, you are losing you base on stupid decisions like this.

  6. plu·toc·ra·cy

    government by the wealthy.
    “the attack on the Bank of England was a gesture against the very symbol of plutocracy”
    a country or society governed by the wealthy.
    plural noun: plutocracies
    “no one can accept public policies which turn a democracy into a plutocracy”
    an elite or ruling class of people whose power derives from their wealth.

    The next step to securing America and giving control back to The People is having to first identify we live within a Plutocracy. Then we need to end term limits, end lobbyists and break up and end monopolies.

    The propaganda the left uses on their viewers to persuade them into thinking just like they want through their methods of delivery.

    The propaganda the right uses on their viewers to persuade them into thinking just like they want through their methods of delivery.

    Has anyone ever wondered why bipartisanship has gone the way of the doo-doo? The wealthy are who are in charge and they buy ALL OF THE POLITICIANS! Both parties, because if they but both of them, it only guarantees their victory. Worse over, both parties know this is occurring and it is like watching WWE Wrestling. Making everyone believe their is this perceived animosity between these two parties is their sole greatest deception. Additionally, both parties are so absolutely bought out that there is no resolution for either party at this point, because they only work for their Corporate financial benefactor lobbyist sponsors.

    The work is not done yet and We The People, must continue fighting this larger enemy of our state, as we do with all Foreign and Domestic threats.

    Changing the laws to reflect the same judgment is given to the wealthy as they hold everyone else to is paramount and that is why Hillary Clinton never went to prison, just like Trump will not.

    Our petty squabbling’s over Republican or Democrat is just a diversion, it is a reality game show, it is another colosseum, and it is intended to distract the populace. And while we are distracted the government silently continues its work to make the rich richer, while everyone else becomes poorer. Don’t let apathy become America’s downfall.

    United we Stand, Divided we fall.

    1. And this is why the FED is currently in charge of the Stock Market. It’s the fox watching the henhouse.

    2. Discussed by Belloc 100 years ago. Crony capitalism and Bolshevism are two sides of the same coin. Chesterton said the problem with capitalism is not too many capitalists, but too few.

      1. “The capitalist state breeds a collectivist theory which in action produces something utterly different from collectivism: to wit, the servile state.”

        1. “A study conducted by political scientists Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University was released in April 2014, which stated that their “analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts.” The study analyzed nearly 1,800 policies enacted by the US government between 1981 and 2002 and compared them to the expressed preferences of the American public as opposed to wealthy Americans and large special interest groups”

          1. “In a 2015 interview, former President Jimmy Carter stated that the United States is now “an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery” due to the Citizens United v. FEC ruling which effectively removed limits on donations to political candidates.

            Wall Street spent a record $2 billion trying to influence the 2016 United States presidential election.”

  7. I agree with you completely. I have always said Democrat or Republican it doesn’t matter. The rich will stay rich and the poor will stay poor. Nothing has ever really changed for me no matter who is elected. Until everyone takes notice and we come together and make out rutted officials do their job of representatives the people. Nothing is going to change

  8. Ah, the result of decades of the Colorado Springs City Council allowing Colorado Springs to retain the lowest developer fees in the state, putting hard surfaces over thousands of acres, and never once really putting the burden on developers. I remember one perspective candidate for filling a vacant council seat in the late 1990’s that said she wasn’t sure if she had the experience to be on council, since aside from her husband renovating the family room, she’s never been in bed with a developer. I wanted her on the council, they said no.

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