Park Ditch Co. seeks funds for repair work

The 112-year-old Park Ditch waterway is vulnerable to landslides and leaks, and is in dire need of expensive repair. The ditch is located east of Pagosa Springs, south of U.S. 160 and runs, in part, through the proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir site.

Fortunately, to ensure continued delivery of vital irrigation to more than 2,000 acres, Park Ditch Co. has received tentative approval of two separate grants that will help offset costs.

In a letter dated May 19, 2009, Southwest Basin Roundtable Chairman Michael Preston informed the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) of its recommendation to fund $85,000 of the basin’s Water Supply Reserve Account for Park Ditch improvements.

A week earlier, the basin apparently reviewed an application submitted by the Park Ditch Co. asking for assistance. In the letter, Preston stated that the project meets the basin’s consumptive needs, “ … by contributing to essential investments in insuring the continued ability of Park Ditch Company to deliver water to 2,300 acres of irrigated land and maintaining the beneficial use of valuable water rights.”

While the letter is only a roundtable recommendation, and Preston suggested the applicant forward its grant application directly to the CWCB for further review, Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) officials believe the funding is all but certain. PAWSD is a member of the Park Ditch Co., holding 99 out of a total 598 shares. The CWCB will render a final decision sometime in July.

Park Ditch Co. also received preliminary approval for a grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on Monday. The NRCS is an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and often renders financial assistance to communities and public utilities working to expand or improve water resources. Its likely endowment will total $94,965, with actual funding expected upon completion of relative paperwork.

The total cost of anticipated ditch repairs is estimated at $227,340. That includes replacement of a 50-year-old head gate along the San Juan River, ditch stabilization in a landslide area and piping of a length of the ditch vulnerable to blowouts.

The head gate apparently fails to properly control intake during sudden or high river flows. Too, logs and other debris tend to collect at the head gate, often resulting in damage to the ditch and loss of valuable irrigation water. The estimated cost of replacing the head gate is $24,080.

Stabilizing the ditch in an area where a hillside has occasionally slid and blocked it, will involve excavation and encasement of a 500-foot length of ditch in a 60-inch corrugated polyethylene pipe. That work will amount to $82,820 in repairs.

According to the ditch company’s NRCS grant proposal, mitigating the blowout section will involve work similar to what is proposed for the slide area, including the installation of 500 feet of polyethylene pipe. Its cost should total about $90,800.

Combined, both grants equal just under $180,000, leaving the ditch company’s share of improvement costs at $47,375 — $39,605 of it will be cash, while $7,770 worth of in-kind contributions.

Park Ditch Co. was established in 1896 to provide irrigation water to local ranches and farms. It has continuously provided water for irrigation and stock use since that time. As indicated, the ditch irrigates about 2,300 acres, with 15 percent of it being hay production, while the balance is used for livestock grazing.

chuck@pagosasun.com