Fountain Creek plan vital
By Sallie Clark

       Flowing out of Ute Pass and through the Westside, then south to join the Arkansas River in Pueblo, Fountain Creek historically has been a lifeline to our region. In contrast, Fountain Creek today is probably more well-known for controversial projects, a muddy appearance and a sometimes questionable water supply to our downstream neighbors.

       For us long-time Westsiders, we've seen it flood bridges and take out homes and businesses, but we've also seen successful environmental projects in areas along its banks. Our county's own Fountain Creek Nature Center in Fountain is a prime example of success. Let's not forget the small stretch of stream restoration behind Angler's Covey or the recent creek project in Manitou Springs with Trout Unlimited's assistance. From the Highway 24 Greenway and the Midland Trail visioning plans, through ups and downs, we locals are optimistic about the Fountain's future. And, that optimism is even more likely now that important legislation passed this session and received the Governor's signature on April 30. I'm convinced that 10 or 20 years from now, when we look back, we'll view the signing of SB 141 as a major milestone.
       SB 141 created the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District. It marks an important turning point in local history - the day we all took joint responsibility for Fountain Creek. The district is a legal entity that stretches across both El Paso County and Pueblo County lines. It provides elected representatives in both counties a way to solve the long standing and complex problems that result when more and more homes and businesses use water in El Paso County and then release that water down Fountain Creek to be reused in the Arkansas Valley.
       The new district will receive $50 million in gradual funding through Colorado Springs Utilities payments for mitigation improvements of Fountain Creek as a result of the Southern Delivery System. In addition, it will now be eligible for additional grants as a state-designated watershed authority.
       This was truly a collaboration of 3 1/2 years of hard work - by El Paso and Pueblo county commissioners and City Council members from Pueblo and Colorado Springs, small cities and towns throughout the region from Palmer Lake to Manitou Springs to Fountain, environmental groups, congressional representatives, the military, councils of governments, utilities from both Pueblo and Colorado Springs, water agencies from El Paso County and the Lower Arkansas Valley, and many others. The Fountain Creek Visioning group met regularly for two years to come up with a consensus on issues such as water quality, the environment and land-use planning, just to name a few. While it's too long a list to mention all the players, the process - sometimes cooperative and sometimes contentious - provided a venue to work through groundbreaking good-neighbor agreements. This relationship- building exercise also had a positive impact on the future of water availability to our entire region.
       All of those involved in this process deserve a special thanks for staying the course when it would have been easier to just walk away. As a result, I'm convinced that the commitment and collaboration that started years ago will continue, and that one day in the not terribly distant future Fountain Creek will become a destination which includes parks, trails and most importantly a beautiful waterway as an asset to our partner communities.
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Sallie Clark is a Westside businesswoman and the District 3 El Paso County commissioner.