Crawford Public Works Director Bruce Bair updated the town at the Nov. 18 work session on the Bureau of Reclamation's recent release of a draft environmental assessment on the Zanni Lateral of the Clipper Ditch. The EA addresses a proposed piping project on the lateral as part of the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Program. The pipeline is one of many being proposed in the Colorado River Basin to help reduce selenium in the basin. It is estimated that 551 tons of salt per year seep into the basin.
The federally funded project, according to the EA, would replace approximately 1.7 miles of open irrigation ditch with buried water pipeline. The lateral section is located entirely on private land beginning in town at the divider head gate at the flour mill south of Highway 92 near the Dogwood Avenue intersection. The pipeline would follow Highway 92 northwest through town, cross under the highway, then run north and west through irrigated lands, ending about 1.3 miles from town boundaries.
Because the town has drainage water that empties into the Clipper Ditch aquifer, trustees expressed concern over how the project would affect the system.
Trustee Larry Kontour noted that area soil is high in alkaline. Open ditches pull the salts from the soil and deposit them into the basin. The Uncompahgre and North Fork river drainages put in 5 percent of all the salts in the Colorado River before it gets to California," said Kontour.
Before the problem began being addressed some 20 years ago, said Kontour, birds living downstream in California were experiencing severe birth defects due to selenium concentrations. Mexico and the Water Compact states are looking at Colorado to address the problem.
The roughly 150-page document can be found at usbr.gov/uc/ under the heading of "Environmental Documents," or by calling 970-248-0651.