Educators talk small hydropower funding, options at free event Thursday | SteamboatToday.com

Educators talk small hydropower funding, options at free event Thursday

Suzie Romig For Steamboat Today

Natural Resources Conservation Service funding assisted with this hydro-powered irrigation system near Yampa in south Routt County.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County cattle rancher Tyler Snyder is happy to encourage other regional water users to learn more about current funding and programs for small hydropower projects.

The hydro-mechanical irrigation project installed on his family-owned ranch in 2013 helps to double his grass crop average yields and saves 50 to 60 percent on water use, which also saves money since much of his water is sourced through reservoir shares or through his own small reservoirs he must maintain.

"We've been very, very happy with our system," Snyder said. "There is so much opportunity for different hydropower systems in our area."

Tyler said his Fish & Cross Ranch west of Yampa has cut flood-irrigated acres in half while producing more efficient irrigation coverage on his hilly land. With assistance from grant funding programs and the local office of Natural Resources Conservation Service, the rancher invested in six hydro-drive center pivots and 11 stationary irrigation guns. He said the initial installation paid for itself within five years.

"Basically, using hydropower was a no brainer because there is zero operating cost in running a hydropower system," Snyder said. "If it's available, using some sort of renewable energy is going to be preferred over fossil fuels. End of the day, for us it was cheaper."

Regional water rights holders who have at least several hundred gallons of water flow per minute are invited to learn more about small hydropower projects for both efficient irrigation efforts or renewable energy production during the free workshop, “Make your Own Power with Water," on Thursday March 22. Two workshop times are offered, starting at 11:30 a.m. with a free lunch in Craig and at 5 p.m. with a free dinner in Steamboat Springs.

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Educators Sam Anderson from the Colorado Department of Agriculture and Erin Light from Division of Water Resources will inform landowners how they can produce renewable power or reduce the use of traditional energy through small hydropower installations. Attendees can learn about funding options, equipment innovations, water law and successful projects in the region.

Ed Brannan, owner of B&B Irrigation in Maybell, said he has installed eight hydro-mechanical irrigation systems in the past five years including seven in Routt County and one in Kremmling. Brannan said the ranchers with those systems are commonly able to irrigate more acres with the same amount of water rights. He also is evaluating a new project near Meeker that would generate hydro-electric power to offset the landowner's utility costs.

Anderson said the state's agriculture department currently has funding available for up to $2,500 per location for a site evaluation for potential small hydropower. The workshop is open to water rights holders, landowners, agricultural producers, water managers, ditch companies and conservation districts.

The March 22 workshops are presented by the Community Agriculture Alliance, Yampa Valley Sustainability Council and Yampa-White-Green River Basin Roundtable. To RSVP for lunch at Veterans Hall in Craig or dinner at Steamboat Springs Community Center, contact Marsha Daughenbaugh at 970-879-4370 or marshad@communityagalliance.org.