COLORADO SPRINGS, CO
Streams and wetlands on Pikes Peak will be getting a lot of help over the next decade under a new agreement between the Sierra Club and the City of Colorado Springs. Yesterday, the Sierra Club and the City agreed to settle their lawsuit over the City’s operation of the Pikes Peak Highway. The settlement would require the City to undertake a major construction program to protect streams and wetlands on Pikes Peak from gravel and sediment that erode from the Highway.
“The Sierra Club wanted clean water on Pikes Peak — and that’s what this settlement will provide,” said Sierra Club spokesperson James Lockhart. “We’re glad the City has committed to doing the right thing for Pikes Peak.”
The Pikes Peak Highway is a toll road that winds to the 14,000-foot summit of Pikes Peak. The inspiration for “America the Beautiful,” this famous mountain attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. About 300,000 of these visitors drive up the Highway. In August 1998, the Sierra Club sued the City for violating the Clean Water Act by allowing Highway-related erosion to damage the Pikes Peak watershed.
The settlement reached yesterday would require the City to implement over 10 years a $14-21 million construction program to protect streams and wetlands on Pikes Peak, and to fund various other cleanup projects on the mountain. The settlement will take effect if the federal court hearing the case approves it.
“This settlement represents a big step forward in the efforts to protect Pikes Peak,” said Michael Freeman, an attorney with Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund (formerly Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund), which represents the Sierra Club. “We’re very happy the City appears committed to do this work, and to do it on a binding schedule.”
The United States Forest Service, which is a co-defendant in the lawsuit, is not a party to the settlement. The Highway is located in the Pikes-San Isabel National Forest, and the City operates the Highway under a permit issued by the Forest Service.