Environmental Protection

Ditch Co. to Pay $9M for Park Damages

Water Supply and Storage Co., a mutual ditch company and the owner and operator of the Grand River Ditch, has agreed to pay $9 million for damages to natural resources within Rocky Mountain National Park caused by a May 30, 2003, breach of the Grand River Ditch, the Justice Department and National Park Service announced recently.

The settlement proceeds will be used to restore areas in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado that were damaged by the breach. This is the largest natural resource damages payment in the history of the Park System Resource Protection Act.

 "We're happy with this settlement. Our goal, all along, has been to restore park resources that were damaged by the breach. Now we can start," said Vaughn Baker, park superintendent for Rocky Mountain National Park.

On Aug. 31, 2006, the Justice Department filed a complaint on behalf of the National Park Service against the company and the Grand River Ditch. The complaint alleged that the company and the Grand River Ditch destroyed, caused the loss of, or injured natural resources within Rocky Mountain National Park in violation of the Park System Resource Protection Act and a 100-year old stipulation in which the company promised to pay for damages caused by the Grand River Ditch.

The Grand River Ditch is a water diversion ditch carved into the slopes of the Never Summer Range in Rocky Mountain National Park, approximately 1,000 feet above the Kawuneeche Valley, the headwaters of the Colorado River, at an altitude of approximately 10,175 feet. The ditch is approximately 14 miles long, captures snow melt from the east side of the Never Summer Range, and diverts it over the Continental Divide at La Poudre Pass to the Long Draw Reservoir.

On May 30, 2003, the Grand River Ditch breached approximately 2 miles south of La Poudre Pass, within the boundaries of the park. More than 100 cubic feet per second of water flowed through the breach, causing extensive damage to park resources. The mountainside beneath the breach was largely obliterated by the rush of water out of the ditch. The erosive power of water, rock, mud, and vegetation caused significant damage to an old growth spruce/fir forest, Lulu Creek, the upper Colorado River, and filled the Lulu City wetlands with sediment.

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