From inception to coalition building to planning to fundraising to materials harvest to construction, this project has been over ten years in the making. This project could not have occurred without the cooperation, patience, and stick-to-it-iveness of myriad stakeholders.
FlyWater, inc., our contractor for the project, worked in the San Miguel River through the month of October to recreate and reconnect the river bed. The last piece of heavy equipment rolled out of the river last week as the major construction phase came to a close. The San Miguel River now runs over the CCC diversion dam and down through the constructed “modified Newbury riffle,” essentially a fish-ladder, re-wetting approximately 1500 feet of riverbed.
The stretch of river below the CCC diversion dam has been dry during periods of low river flow when river flows were at or below 150 cfs for the forty years since the CCC diversion dam was built. In mid- and late-summer, for example, the entire flow of the river would be diverted by the CCC diversion dam through the CCC Ditch. River water in excess of the decreed water rights would be returned to the riverbed 1500 feet downstream of the ditch headgate. This arrangement de-watered only 1500 feet of riverbed, but it completely severed the river ecosystem, preventing fish passage through that dry stretch. Now, fish populations are expected to thrive in their restored riparian ecosystem.
And best of all, this physical solution not only benefits the riparian ecosystem, fish populations, and recreationists, but it also does so without compromising a single drop of water that has historically been delivered to water users under the CCC Ditch. As this project comes to a close and the stakeholders celebrate their shared successes, we are delighted by the fact that everyone, fish included, can win when smart water projects are brought to fruition.