Salvation Ditch under new management | AspenTimes.com
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Salvation Ditch under new management

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Salvation Ditch Co. has replaced its ditch manager with Beach Environmental, headed by Gary Beach, who intends to operate the 25-mile water system in a more neighborly manner than his predecessor.

The company’s board sought proposals for management of the ditch and has selected Beach Environmental to succeed former ditch manager John Julius.

Beach has rehired Michael Kiernan, who walked the ditch before Julius took over as manager.

The Salvation Ditch was in the news last year when the drought-stricken Roaring Fork River was reduced to a series of shallow pools in Aspen because the remaining flow in the river had all been diverted into the ditch.

The ditch company’s unsuccessful attempt to lease some of its water to the city of Glenwood Springs, so more water could be left in the river, has led to new state legislation allowing the temporary transfer of water rights for environmental purposes.

“That situation I think probably prompted the ditch company to re-evaluate its impact on the stream, the ditch’s impact on neighbors, and their impact on the ditch,” Beach said.

The ditch company wants to make sure the channel carries its precious resource as efficiently as possible, he added.

Before the river became a trickle last summer, the ditch company made news for making a mess while the trench was being cleared of debris along a visible stretch next to Highway 82 on the east side of town.

Debris was piled high on the bank, as Julius cleared the channel with a small trackhoe. Young trees along the ditch bank were snapped in half and left there.

Neighbors complained, Mayor Helen Klanderud called the sight “nauseating,” and city crews were sent in to clean up the mess.

“That’s one of the things that we don’t intend to have happen again,” Beach said. “We know we have areas that need to be cleaned up.”

The company intends to keep use of machinery to a minimum, according to Beach.

“Our approach is going to be one where we limit the impact neighbors have experienced with heavy equipment,” he said.

“By the same token, we’re going to ask our neighbors to be good neighbors – not to use the ditch as a dump.”

The ditch easement passes through private properties, and the company has had problems with people dumping debris in the trench and routing drainage systems into the channel.

The ditch has already been inspected this spring, and some cleanup jobs have been identified. The company expects to begin diverting water from the river into the ditch early next week, Beach said.

Kiernan will be walking lengths of the channel daily, making sure it’s not leaking or dammed up with obstructions.

“It’s kind of a neat job. He walks a substantial piece of the ditch every day,” Beach said.

The Salvation Ditch carries water from its diversion point near Stillwater Road, east of Aspen, to hayfields as far away as Aspen Valley Ranch, below Woody Creek. The company’s water rights date back nearly a century; the ditch can carry up to 96 cubic feet per second.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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