Town digs into ditch issue

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— Local and county officials are hopeful a resolution can be reached for a ditch that has plagued the Routt Count Fairgrounds for years.

Routt County and the fair board are proposing to seal 1,000 feet of the Walker Ditch. They believe that seeping water from the ditch is to blame for the fairgrounds' often wet and muddy conditions.

For years, the Walker Ditch has been responsible for leaking water into the fairgrounds, especially during irrigation season, said County Commissioner Doug Monger.

And the sitting water has made the fairgrounds impossible to lease out during the year, he said.

"This has been a problem forever," Monger said. "The seepage has gotten so bad that when the ditch has water in it, we can't use the fairgrounds.

"The only reason we are able to use the grounds for the fair is the water is shut off for that week."

The county has been negotiating with the residents who have water rights to the ditch to find a solution to stop the water from leaking into the fairgrounds.

Officials are looking into solutions that include hiring a company to spray a plastic-type material on the bed of a portion of the ditch to seal it.

The county is expecting to fund the project with a $10,000 grant from the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

"There is a pretty good shot we will get the grant," Monger said.

Standing in the way of the county receiving the grant is approval from the conservation district's board, said Terry Doherty, the administrative assistant of the Routt County Fair Board.

"The (Colorado River Water Conservation District) staff has recommended the project be funded," said Doherty, who submitted the application for the grant. "The board will make a determination April 17."

Along with the pending grant, the Upper Yampa Water Conservation District has elected to pitch in $5,000 for the project cost.

It is Doherty's hope that whatever solution engineers from the Yampa district come up with, it can be the beginning of a long-term way to deal with the seepage.

"If we can repair one section of the ditch, we could then look into applying for a larger grant to do other sections of the ditch," she said.

The ditch starts out at the Carpenter Ranch and then meanders through town and runs parallel to the upper section of the fairgrounds.

Monger is hopeful that if the seepage problem can be solved, the county can lease out the fairgrounds throughout the year.

"The fairgrounds is a large facility that should be used more than once a year," he said. "It should have multi-uses."

Monger believes residents who own water rights will cooperate with the county on this issue.

"We want this to be a win-win situation for everyone to remedy this problem," he said. "We want to keep the fairgrounds dry, but this could also increase the water flow for water owners."

Monger is hopeful work on the section of the ditch can start this summer.

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