Peak & Prairie
October / November 1998
Pikes Peak Highway Update
by James Lockhart, Pikes Peak Group
On August 10th, the Pikes Peak Group added the City of Colorado Springs as a defendant in its ongoing Clean Water Act suit over the operations of the Pikes Peak Highway. The suit alleges that it has violated sections 401, 402, and 404 of the Clean Water Act by allowing excessive amounts of gravel, used in maintaining the Highway, to erode from the Highway, damaging adjacent streams and wetlands, and adversely impacting City-owned reservoirs. On August 3rd, in a surprise move apparently prompted by its knowledge of the impending lawsuit, the City of Colorado Springs filed an application for Clean Water certification with the Colorado Water Quality Control Division. The City's application admits that water quality data collected at its South Catamount and Crystal Reservoirs show significant water quality impacts "probably due to erosion and sedimentation from the Highway."
In its application for Clean Water certification, the City seeks to have the State approve "best management practices" which amount to the same, unrealistic remediation proposal rejected by the Sierra Club in negotiations with the City. Although the City's own studies show that between $15 million and $21 million worth of road, slope, and drainage work are necessary to stabilize the Pikes Peak Highway, the City's application proposes to devote at most only 15% of the Highway budget, or about $350,000 per year, toward the problem. At this rate, completion of all of the recommended work would take 40 to 60 years. By making this proposal to the State, the City has apparently reneged on the "best estimate" commitment, made last November 14th, to complete remediation work by the year 2008.