The ability to move the diversion upstream may be the most important component of this project. By “chasing grade” upstream and using gravity to supply water through a pipeline, the ditch companies were able to divert their water without an instream structure that impedes fish migration, and acts as a potential life safety hazard for recreation.
In 2014, the Colorado General Assembly allowed that when a stream channel changes due to natural events such as flooding, rendering a headgate inoperable, the ditch owner may move the headgate upstream without filing a change of water right application – as long as the relocation does not interfere with the use or enjoyment of any decreed or absolute conditional water right.
In non-flood scenarios, the point of diversion may also be changed using form JDF 241W – Application for Simple Change in Surface Point of Diversion, which can be obtained on the Colorado Judicial Branch website under “forms.” This process need not involve going to water court, or hiring an attorney, as long as the conditions of non-injury can be met.
Reconstructing flood-damaged infrastructure to accommodate environmental and recreation needs is considered critical in this stretch of South Saint Vrain Creek, an area highlighted in the Colorado Water Plan (2015) as a “Recreational Focus Area.1” South St. Vrain Creek also connects with downstream segments of the main stem of Saint Vrain Creek identified as “Environmental and Recreational Focus Areas” containing State-identified fish species of concern.
This project further supports the St. Vrain Creek Watershed Master Plan (2014) objectives for this reach, promoting natural channel design, sediment transport, agricultural water use, recreation, and fish passage.
1 South Platte Basin Implementation Plan (2014), a part of Colorado’s Water Plan (2015)