MOGOTE — One of the exciting opportunities to emerge from the Conejos River Stream Management Plan (SMP) was the development of partnerships and projects along the Conejos River.
With new information from the SMP, the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project is working with stakeholders on multi-benefit projects similar to their longstanding efforts on the mainstem Rio Grande.
Most of the irrigation diversion structures on the Conejos River are located between Mogote and the confluence with the Rio Grande.
This infrastructure is critical to the agricultural community, however many of the diversions were built in the early 1900s and cannot be operated efficiently. Some structures have difficulty diverting their decreed rates during low flow conditions, and very few have automated head gates.
In addition to impacting irrigators, degraded structures can negatively affect stream health and aquatic habitat connectivity by fragmenting habitat, altering sediment transport and impacting channel geomorphology through frequent instream maintenance. Further, poorly functioning diversion structures and head gates negatively impact the ability of Colorado Division of Water Resources to administer water rights and meet Rio Grande Compact water delivery obligations.
The Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project has partnered with the Conejos Water Conservancy District and other local stakeholders to plan and implement The Conejos River Partnership Project (CRPP), a multi-phased project focused on improving irrigation efficiency, stabilizing streambanks, and enhancing riparian and aquatic habitat along the Conejos River.
Phase 1 of the CRPP includes the rehabilitation of five irrigation ditches and the restoration of adjacent aquatic and riparian habitat. The ditches included in Phase 1 are the North Eastern, New JB Romero, Sabine School Section, Fuerticitos, and Elledges.
Funding for Phase 1 of the CRPP includes the Restoration and Stewardship of Outdoor Resources, or RESTORE, Colorado grant program and the Colorado Water Conservation Board's Water Supply Reserve Fund (WSRF). The CRPP was selected from a large pool of applicants, highlighting the large-scale benefits associated with the project. Financial contributions from the Conejos Water Conservancy District and ditch shareholders also make this project possible.
The identified issues and restoration plans for each ditch are listed below.
North Eastern and New JB Romero Ditches
Needs Identified: The diversions and head gates servicing these ditches are in poor condition. The main issues include trash/debris build-up, high levels of maintenance, and inefficient infrastructure.
Components: Consolidate the point of diversion for both ditches and construct a new fish-passable diversion structure, •new head gates on river and carrier •Headgate automation • Channel shaping, streambank stabilization • Improve riparian habitat
Needs Identified: The diversion dam and head gate are in poor condition. Challenges include trash/debris build-up and streambank instability. The diversion creates a fish barrier.
Components: Replace the diversion with a fish-passable structure • Replace the head gate • Channel shaping and streambank stabilization, • Improve riparian habitat
Sabine School Section Ditch
Needs Identified: The diversion dam and head gate are in poor condition. Challenges include inefficient infrastructure, high maintenance needs, and streambank instability. The diversion creates a fish barrier at low flows.
Components: Replace the head gate; •Replace the diversion with a fish-passable structure •Channel shaping and streambank stabilization • Improve riparian habitat
Needs identified: The diversion dam and head gate are in poor condition, the diversion creates fish barrier at low flows, and streambank instability upstream threatens the ditch's functionality.
Components: Replace diversion with a fish-passable structure, • Replace the existing head gate • Channel shaping and streambank stabilization • Improve riparian habitat