McInnis flip on Springs water issue may explain silence on his Hasan water articles

I’ve been on the hunt for any article about water, written by GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis.

And guess what appeared in print when I was on vacation last week? A water article by Scott McInnis, titled, “Why I changed my position on the Southern Delivery System.” 

It was published May 31 in the Colorado Springs Gazette, in response to a column by Barry Noreen that raised questions about a McInnis vote on a water issue just prior to his leaving Congress.

Unfortunately, McInnis’ Gazette water piece was written too recently to be one of the articles in the series that McInnis wrote for the Hasan Family Foundation, which paid the former Congressman $150,000 from 2005 – 2007 to write a “series of in-depth articles on water.” (McInnis won’t talk about them to me, and reporters aren’t asking him about them. So I’m forced to keep searching for them myself. Hence this post.)

I thought there might be a remote chance I could find a clue or two in McInnis’ Gazette water article that might lead me to McInnis’ expanded writings on water issues, or at least to a reason for their disappearance.

In the Gazette piece, McInnis says that as a Congressman, he voted against the Preferred Storage Option Plan (PSOP), which would have provided funding for a study of, among other things, enlarging Pueblo Dam, a project possibly connected to the construction of the Southern Delivery System (SDS), which would move water from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs and areas around there.

In his column, McInnis writes that in Congress he didn’t support PSOP or the SDS.

Noreen’s column cites a Republican who said McInnis was originally in favor studying PSOP and SDS, as long as it didn’t take western slope water. But he allegedly changed his mind at the last minute, allegedly under pressure from McInnis future employer, Hogan and Hartson, and voted against the PSOP.

If that’s true, Congressman McInnis was for SDS before he voted against it. And now candidate McInnis has come out in favor of it again in his Gazette article. Why?

“Simply put, I believed then that the project needed significant improvements …- improvements that a ‘no’ vote could encourage,” McInnis writes in the Gazette.

Colorado Springs City Councilmember Sean Page, who tracked the issue when McInnis was in Congress and continues to follow it , told me he didn’t think the project has changed much between then and now.

“The plan is basically the same today as it was back then, which is to run a pipe from Pueblo reservoir into Colorado Springs and put it into a reservoir and so on and so forth,” Page told me. “The argument that somehow Scott McInnis improved the SDS by blocking the PSOP legislation is specious in my view and not supported by the facts.”

McInnis wrote in the Gazette that he changed his view on the project because there’s more collaboration around the project now.

“This collaboration, which was frankly lacking in 2004 and is alive today, is why the project has earned my support,” McInnis wrote in his column. “I’m also very pleased with the required safety and environmental projects on Fountain Creek. As with many folks in the region, while my support didn’t come easily, it’s enthusiastic for this reformed and vastly improved project.”

City Councilmember Page, who’s a Republican not backing McInnis or his primary opponent Dan Maes, thinks the collaboration (He calls it “extortion.”) would have happened as part of the normal regulatory process even if McInnis had not “torpedoed the PSOP.” 

Page believes McInnis changed his view on the water project because he’s looking for votes from El Paso County.

“Back then, he was representing his congressional district, and Bob Rawlings of the Pueblo Chieftain, had a lot of pull in his district,” said Page. “When you run for statewide office you have to take the bigger perspective, because all of a sudden the people in El Paso County and Colorado Springs matter to your election. I’m sure he has changed his view based on the fact that he’s running for statewide office. You know, parochialism and being parochial is common for politicians, to look for what suits them in the short run for their district. Maybe this is just a lesson that sometimes you have to project down the road a little bit. I wish that five, six years ago he [McInnis] had taken a more statesmanlike position and looked out for not just his district but for the good of the rest of the state, or I should say the Arkansas Valley.”

Whatever you think of McInnis’ different positions on SDS, it’s clear that his recent Gazette piece reflects a detailed understanding of at least one Colorado water issue. So, I’m thinking maybe McInnis excerpted a portion of a previously written Hasan water article for his Gazette piece. That’s mostly a joke, but I think McInnis knows a lot about Colorado water issues, and I have no reason to doubt that McInnis wrote water articles as a Hasan “senior fellow.” McInnis said so. Why in the world would he misconstrue this?

The simple reason for McInnis’ apparent refusal to produce his water opus might be the fact that these issues are so mind-bogglingly sensitive that he feels he has nothing to gain politically by exposing more of his thinking on the topic.

McInnis alleged temper tantrum (described in City Councilmember Page’s blog) in a private meeting in CO Springs, when a water issue was raised, is proof of the sensitivity of the issue. As is the Noreen’s recent column on the topic.

This is speculation, I know, but until McInnis explains what’s going on, or reporters dig into it, what more can we do?

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