A state commission refused Monday to overturn a critical water quality certification that Colorado Springs Utilities obtained last year for the Southern Delivery System pipeline.

The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission voted 7-0 to affirm the state Water Quality Control Division’s decision from last April to issue the 401 certification for SDS.

The Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition and Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut had appealed the 401 certification. They claimed that SDS failed to comply with all applicable state water quality requirements, among other assertions. They asked the commission to set aside the certification or send it back for further review.

Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera, a strong proponent of SDS, hailed Monday’s vote, saying the attempt to overturn the 401 certification was rooted in politics.

“I think it highlights again that Bill Thiebaut is all about political grandstanding than actually prosecuting or spending his time on issues,” Rivera said.

“A federal judge told him (about two years ago) that he had no standing in the case and had no right to bring a suit against us, and yet he persists.”

The 401 certification was a prerequisite to the 404 permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the last major approval Utilities needed for SDS.

The 62-mile pipeline is designed to pump Arkansas River water from the Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs. It is billed as a reliable and modernized water supply system that will serve the city and neighboring communities for decades.

“We believe the commission made the correct decision as the Water Quality Control Division clearly demonstrated it conducted a thorough and complete evaluation of the project,” John Fredell, SDS project manager, said after Monday’s hearing in Denver.

“The 401 certification process performed by the state is consistent with and appropriately relied on the extensive analysis conducted by numerous other regulatory agencies for the SDS project,” he said.

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