Orchard City says ordiance protects ag irrigators

By Hank Lohmeyer


Since last summer, the Orchard City trustees have been negotiating with the Colorado Water Conservation Board over new floodplain regulations that affect the town.

The CWCB provided an ordinance that it said the town was obliged to adopt, or else Orchard City residents would not be able to buy flood insurance and would be cut off from FEMA assistance in the event of a disaster. Trustees thought those were heavy hammers of enforcement to place on the town board and citizens, especially when parts of the ordinance appeared to place burdens on agricultural irrigation. The town stood its ground and got changes it wanted in the decreed ordinance.

Those changes protect agricultural irrigators from what otherwise would have amounted to direct state and federal control over their day-to-day activities, according to town officials.

The resulting ordinance was heard by the town board on first reading June 8. It is scheduled to come up for final adoption at the board's July 13 meeting. While the ordinance requires that new construction, including homes, in floodplain areas obtain a permit and meet engineering standards, the permitting and engineering do not apply to normal maintenance and repair of ditches and irrigation structures in floodplain areas.

According to town officials, maintenance activities are excluded from the permitting and engineering requirements for new construction in floodplain areas. That is an exclusion that was not at all clear in the original text of the ordinance suggested by CWCB.

Normal maintenance activities that are excluded from the permitting requirement are defined as follows: Any activity undertaken to repair or prevent the deterioration, impairment, or failure of any stream, a previously constructed improvement, or structure including, without limitation, the removal of sediment and debris, installation of erosion and sediment control devises, and the replacement of structural components. Maintenance does not include substantial modifications, substantial improvements, total replacement of existing facilities, or total reconstruction of a facility.

The proposed ordinance is available for review at the Orchard City Town Hall and is being considered for second reading and possible adoption at the town board's July 13 meeting.