The Maybell Ditch Project, which will update a century-old diversion dam and gate gate in the lower Yampa River, this week received $1.92 million in federal funding.
Several local and regional partners have been working together for several years to set this project in motion. The Maybell Irrigation District is partnering with the Nature Conservancy and Friends of the Yampa, as well as local stakeholders who contributed to the project.
The Nature Conservancy applied for the Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART grant in December and found this week that it had been selected for funding. This funding is part of a $36.1 million federal government investment to preserve local water supplies in response to record years of drought in the western United States.
“We are thrilled that the federal government is making a significant investment in water safety projects across the West,” said Jennifer Wellman, freshwater project manager for The Nature Conservancy in Colorado.
The Maybell diversion project was one of 27 projects in 12 states and Puerto Rico to receive funding to make improvements to watersheds vulnerable to deteriorating aquatic habitats and vapor beds. The fund focuses on supporting restoration projects that protect against drought-related impacts.
“It is an honor that the Maybell Diversion Project has received funding of this size and significance from the Bureau of Reclamation,” said Mike Camblin, chairman of the Maybell Irrigation District. “We are grateful for the support and partnerships that make this project possible. »
Wellman said the project’s current budget is in the range of $6 million. To date, the partners have secured $3 million, including funding for SmartWATER, and according to Wellman, they hope to raise an additional $3-5 million for irrigation and infrastructure improvements.
Currently, the Maybell diversion dam does not provide safe passage for three endangered fish species and one threatened fish species. Diversion is also a hazard to boat passage, in a section of the Yampa River that attracts a significant amount of recreational use.
The diversion, which is at the mouth of Juniper Canyon, currently presents a dangerous path for watercraft. For the project, rock-height control structures will be installed to maintain water depth, allowing safe passage of fish and reducing boating risks.
Another aspect of the project will be to restructure the streambed in the diversion path by filling several large holes that require the annual construction of thrust dams to control low flows. Monitoring controls will be installed for data collection and to better manage water flow.
This project is aligned with the Upper Colorado Endangered Fish Recovery Program and Maybell’s Improvement Plan, which involved the collaboration of federal, state, aquatic districts, recreation groups and other parties. stakeholders.
“We are at a crucial moment in history where we must implement long-term solutions to meet water use and needs in the face of climate change. Our partnership with Maybell Irrigation District is a great example of long-term, community-focused freshwater protection that supports local economic stability,” Wellman said.