May 5, 2008

Ditch Owner Fined for Colorado Park Damage

The owner of a Colorado snowmelt diversion ditch agreed Monday to pay $9 million to repair damage done to Rocky Mountain National Park when it breached.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the National Park Service said the owner of the Grand River Ditch, Water Supply and Storage Co., agreed to the fine, levied to fund an environmental clean-up effort in the Kawuneeche Valley at the headwaters of the Colorado River.

The ditch ruptured at an elevation of 10,175 feet in May 2003, sending more than 100 cubic feet of water per second cascading down the mountainside and causing extensive damage to an old-growth spruce forest and other natural features in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The Grand River Ditch, carved into the side of the Never Summer Range, is 14 miles long. It captures snowmelt and diverts it over the Continental Divide at La Poudre Pass and into the Long Draw Reservoir.

This settlement will allow the restoration of critical habitat within Rocky Mountain National Park and protection of the essential headwaters of the Colorado River, said Ronald Tenpas, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.