11/2017: North Fork of the Gunnison Irrigation Plan provides an evaluation of in-river and near-river irrigation infrastructure needs. The report, which divides the river into reach segments, includes recommendations for irrigation improvements that will also benefit environmental and recreational interests. Page 27 of the report describes the Stewart Ditch diversion and headgate. Recommendations include island stabilization, a headwall with sluice to regulate flow into the diversion channel, relocation and replacement of the diversion structure, and the installation 1,200 feet of pipeline.
Stewart Ditch and Reservoir Company Diversion structural improvement objectives:
1. Divert the full decree of water; April – October (diversion and headgate)
2. Divert cleaner water with less sediment (screen)
3. Less Maintenance (currently spend $3,000 to $5,000 per year cleaning sections of ditch that need it).
4. Less labor to adjust flow (SCADA system). During the irrigation season, manual adjustment of the headgate is required on a daily basis).
Funding: Timeline - 10/30/20 to 6/30/2022
10/30/2020: Trout Unlimited (TU) prepares proposal for CWCB grant funding. After visiting the diversion, the local West Slope Conservation Center (WSCC) writes a letter supporting the proposal.
11/5/2020: Grant proposal for $135,000 submitted to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) for Watershed Restoration funding.
11/17/2020. First zoom call to discuss project (Stewart Ditch President, Secretary, TU, CSCB and CCA Ag Water NetWORK).
12/8/2020: Meeting at diversion (Stewart Ditch President, Secretary, TU, CCA Ag Water NetWORK, CSCB rep) to discuss conceptual improvements needed. Sketch of project improvements provided by TU.
12/13/2020: CCA, TU provide letters of support for CWCB Watershed Restoration Plan funding. TU requests letters from upstream neighboring ranch and local environmental group.
2/1/2021: Glenwood Springs-based firm River Restoration is contacted for cost estimates to do initial hydraulic modeling which is useful for developing design ideas.
2/3/2021: CWCB awards a $20,000 grant ($135K was requested) from the Watershed Restoration Fund. The awarded funding will be used for conceptual design for the channel, diversion and headgate, and to match construction funds later on.
2/3/2021: Local chapter of TU commits $5,000 toward the project design work. The West Slope Conservation Center (WSCC) commits $6,000 for the engineering phase. The $6,000 is unspent money from a previous CWCB grant.
2/5/2021: Stewart Ditch submits a grant proposal to the Gunnison Basin Roundtable (BRT) for $65,000 in funding. Estimated project cost indicated is $489,500.
2/11/2021: Stewart Ditch staff and TU look into details of new funding pool available from the Colorado River Water Conservation District (“River District”). TU also talks with CDOT regarding in-kind work related to filling and stabilizing the North riverbank in an area where the diversion is on CDOT property and erosion is occurring on river’s north embankment. CDOT has been doing work upstream on a neighboring ranch.
3/10/2021: Stewart Ditch Secretary and TU meet with the Colorado River Water Conservancy District ("the River District") to discuss grant funding. the CWCB and TU funds will be used to pay for a survey and draft design this spring, and TU will work on a grant application for River District funding.
3/15/2021: Gunnison BRT approves a $22,000 grant ($65K was requested) from the Basin Water Supply Reserve Fund (WSRF) for the Stewart Ditch headgate improvement surveying and design phase. The BRT grants committee was supportive of the project but cited the project was not fully scoped and had not lined up all its funding. The Grants committee encouraged the applicant to re-apply when “funding is complete.”
3/30/2021: Stewart Ditch submits state WSRF grant proposal to CWCB.
4/13/2021: Stewart Ditch President and Secretary meet onsite with TU and river modeling engineer to look at project and discuss options. TU is managing the grants so it will work to get a contract in place so that River Restoration can begin surveying the area within 30 days and then initiate conceptual modeling of different diversion configurations.
8/25/2021: Stewart Ditch and Reservoir Co. apply to the River District for $200,000 in grant funding.
9/9/2021: Meeting at the diversion on the river to discuss the "30 percent" design. The 30 percent design provides an initial plan and project cost for discussion. Participants were Stewart Ditch President, Secretary, and ditch rider, TU, engineers from River Restoration (river modeling and diversion and grade changes) and J-U-B Engineering (headgate and screen design and water level grade changes), West Slope Conservation Center staff person and CCA Ag Water NetWORK. The design will include lowering the elevation of the headgate to better divert under all conditions and optimize flow velocity to the flume. Modifications to the river will result in better fish and recreational passage.
9/25/2021: TU applies for a $118,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Agriculture's Drought Resilience grant program, which is a stimulus funded program designed to help agricultural producers address drought-related challenges.
In early October, TU will be applying to CWCB for $150,000 from the state WSRF funds, and in November TU will submit an application for $160,000 from the CWCB Water Plan funds.
11/2021: A $50,000 Drought Resilience grant is approved by the Colorado Department of Agriculture (DoAg). Later, another $20,000 is added by the DoAg, bringing the total grant to $70,000.
11/2021: The West Slope Conservation Center (WSCC) commits another $2,000, bringing their total committment to $8,000.
11/2021: A $140,000 WSRF grant is approved by the Gunnison BRT, bringing the total Water Supply Reserve Funding (WSRF) to $162,000.
12/2021: The River District approves $200,000 in grant funding for the project.
1/2022: TU applies for $165,000 in funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
2/2022: The CWCB approves a $170,000 Water Plan grant.
Details about the Stewart Ditch System
In 2021, piping is continuing for 2 miles up the ditch to the edge of Paonia. The current screen structure will remain in place. The water will drop from the Upper Pipeline project into the screen box, then flow into the pressurized pipeline. It was discussed whether to connect directly to the lower pipeline, but there was not a good area to move the screen box to. The lower pipeline project accounts for delivering 2,138.63 shares of the total 2,734.43 shares of the Stewart Ditch and Reservoir Company, constituting 50 CFS of flow. The current project is only affecting 15 shares. The ultimate goal is to pipe the entire ditch.
The beginning of the Upper Pipeline project will be above the American Legion in Paonia next to a street. A screen for larger trash will be installed here. Going from the American Legion up the ditch to the other side of town there are 154 shareholders with 2 or less shares per shareholder being delivered at several outlets around the edge of town. From there to the main headgate on the river the remaining water is being delivered to farmers and orchards.