Colorado’s irrigation ditch companies to repair head gates

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WELD COUNTY, Colo. -- In Colorado, farmers rely on an intricate system of irrigation ditches to get water to fields.

The super storm that flooded much of the Front Range, also took out many of the devices which allow those ditches to transport water.

“We have a looming situation which will be causing problems unless action is taken,” said Scott Cutherbertson, with the State Water Division. “We have seen, in our first week of inspections, some 330 river head gates impacted. Of the 330, status is unknown on 66 devices, 83 are useable, but 143 are damaged and need construction to be repaired and 38 of the head gates have been washed away by the heavy flood waters.”

The head gates are the property of the ditch companies, so they are and will be responsible for any repairs which are needed.

For farmers such as Joe Miller, these head gates are the life-blood of their operations.

“Without the gates and the wheels which lift and lower the devices that divert water, we will be in bad shape come next irrigation season,” said Miller who owns the popular and still open, Miller’s Farm. “We lost some of our main ditches but our gates are still high and dry so to speak. But these repairs will take millions and millions of dollars. Some of the gates were built dozens of years ago and will need upgraded technology.”

The state also indicated they lost at least seven stream flow gauges which monitor how much water each ditch is using and how fast the current in them is.

With winter wheat about to go into the ground many think repairs won’t be made in time to help the next crop, but the real question is whether the devices will be up and flowing before the next growing season.

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