A Rare Challenge for North East Colorado Water Providers

Following last month’s historic flood, discussions on whether or not the region’s rivers should be put back in their previous locations are now taking place after surging flood waters cut several new paths — relocating rivers as much as three-fourths of a mile in some spots, according to reports.

The biggest issue for farmers, could be the ability to deliver water to their fields next year.

Regardless, water providers and water users say there’s limited time to fix the problem.

Floodland - Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphotoThe Fence Post: Relocating Rivers? NE Colo. water providers, officials face rare challenge

Northeast Colorado water officials and water providers face a rare predicament following last month’s historic flood.

Discussions on whether or not the region’s rivers should be put back in their previous locations are now taking place after surging flood waters cut several new paths — relocating rivers as much as three-fourths of a mile in some spots, according to reports.

A number of water providers this week expressed support to get the rivers back to their previous locations, at least in areas where their diversion structures are no longer on the banks of the rivers, and can’t draw water into reservoirs or ditches.

Without moving the rivers back, those water providers would have to build new diversion structures where the river is now located, they said, which could add up into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe more.

While there’s much support to get the rivers back to their previous locations, there still are questions about permitting for the river-redirecting endeavors, legal issues, and who would pay for the projects, among others.

“This issue could be complicated,” said Dick Wolfe, state engineer with the Colorado Division of Water Resources. “In the several instances where ditch companies or others had structures that were washed out or had other damage, it’s fairly clear how those repairs should be done. But in the cases where the rivers cut a whole new channel … there’s still a lot of discussions that need to be had.”

Wolfe said he and others with the state will continue working closely with local and federal officials, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which evaluates permit applications for essentially all construction activities that occur on the nation’s waters, including rivers.

“It’s certainly not an issue the state has dealt with during my professional career,” said Wolfe, who’s worked in the water business in Colorado for 27 years. “And while the floods of 1965 and 1976 caused similar problems, the federal permitting process and other things have changed so much since then … that I’m not sure we can really use those as a road map.”

Regardless of the challenges, water providers and water users say there’s limited time to fix the problem. >>Read More<<

Tags: Colorado water law, Colorado Division of Water Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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