Sometime this summer, the Colorado Springs City Council, acting as the Utility Board, will begin the process of deciding what to do about Rosemont Reservoir, an impoundment that supplies irrigation water to The Broadmoor hotel.
As the Business Journal reported last July, Colorado Springs Utilities had been engaged in periodic negotiations with The Broadmoor, which may be interested in acquiring the reservoir, the land that surrounds it and the pipeline that transports water to The Broadmoor. CSU noted that there were concerns about the cost of maintaining and/or replacing the deteriorated pipeline that carries Rosemont water to Broadmoor golf courses.
But as the furor over the city’s proposed land swap with the hotel grew, those negotiations were put on hold.
Rosemont water flows through a pipeline that requires expensive upgrades.
“The pipeline goes through really rugged country,” said former Council President Merv Bennett. “It’s rocky, pristine forest, with very steep slopes. It also passes through land under several different ownerships. It would be a very difficult, expensive process — I’ve been told it would cost about $50 million to replace the pipeline.”
CSU Chief Planning and Finance Officer Bill Cherrier confirmed that the pipeline is cause for concern.
“We’ve talked about it for 10 years,” he said.
“When there was so much discussion about the [Strawberry Fields] land swap, we decided to defer this,” Bennett said. “We thought it would be better to wait until after the election.”
CSU CEO Jerry Forte said, “We wanted to wait until the new councilors had time to get up to speed. When we do bring it, I can promise that it will be an absolutely open and transparent community process. I have no agenda and no preconceptions.”
Why would The Broadmoor want to acquire the reservoir and the remnants of the system it once owned? And why has CSU deferred maintenance for decades?
“We lose 50 percent of the water that comes down the pipeline,” said Bennett. “And it only serves one customer -— The Broadmoor Golf Course.”
Such inefficiency is a consequence of Rosemont’s small size and the limited market for its water. If the pipeline were to become unusable, CSU would likely discontinue deliveries rather than repair the system, allowing the water to flow freely to downstream users.
That might not be in the Broadmoor’s long-term interests. By acquiring the system and investing $50 million to upgrade it, the hotel would have a permanent, uninterruptible and drought-protected water source. That would insulate the company from the problems encountered in 2002, when the hotel’s golf courses were conspicuously exempt from landscape watering restrictions, as well as protecting it from periodic rate increases.
Will the proposed deal spark the same angry controversy that surrounded the Strawberry Fields land swap, and may have affected the outcome of the April elections? And if CSU gets out from under a $50 million repair bill, and pockets a few million for the water rights, would that be a good deal?
Those questions can’t be answered until the process continues. But it’s already clear that the activists who opposed the land swap will be paying attention.
“It may very well be a done deal,” said former County Commissioner Jim Bensberg, an ardent opponent of the land swap, “but I hope that the new Utilities Board will give more deference to the wishes of its ratepayers than the previous council gave to public land advocates in the Strawberry Fields debacle.”
It all seems speculative at this point — at least from The Broadmoor’s standpoint.
According to Broadmoor CEO Jack Damioli: “We have not had a substantive discussion with CSU about the Rosemont Reservoir or pipeline in almost a year and no discussions are scheduled.”
• Rosemont Reservoir holds 2,543 acre/feet, or 826 million gallons, compared to Rampart Reservoir — 39,895 A/F, or 13 billion gallons.
• Gould Creek and East Beaver Creek feed Rosemont. The city owns senior water rights in each.
• The average annual available supply from Rosemont was reported to be 5,570 acre-feet in a CSU survey of the water system.
• Built in 1932 by The Broadmoor, Rosemont Reservoir was acquired by the city in 1979, when the city council decided to annex The Broadmoor and surrounding neighborhoods. Shortly after the annexation, the city acquired the system from the hotel and integrated it into CSU’s portfolio.
• Water from Rosemont and other sources on the Pikes Peak watershed are “first-take” water — renewable, sustainable and free of contaminants.