The CWCB approved a temporary loan of water from a ranch on Tomichi Creek in the Gunnison River basin to the state’s instream flow program. It must now be approved by the state Division of Water Resources.
The Peterson Ranch, owned by Greg Peterson and former legislator and River District board member Kathleen Curry, will reduce diversions at certain times of year so more water can remain in the stream for the benefit of the environment. The goal is to operate the lease in dry years when the stream is likely to experience low flows and high temperatures. The Colorado Water Trust will act as the middleman and pay Peterson Ranch to leave water in the stream.
Curry said they developed a proposal that involves changing when they shut off certain ditches and taking water off some meadows earlier. The lease would only work in a hydrological sweet spot of a dry, but not-too-dry year. In a wet year, the river may not need any of the ranch’s water and in a very dry year, the ranch may have no water to spare.
Still, Curry hopes the agreement can come together for the 2023 irrigation season. “We think it’s a positive approach to stream management,” she said.