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McGowan Ditch Project – Photo Courtesy of Greg Peterson
Bucky Lehman Ditch Project – Photo Courtesy of Jesse Kruthaupt
Lawrence and Sun Ditch Project – Photo Courtesy of Bob Robbins




The UGRWCD’s Grant Program, which began in 2009 with a handful of applications, has now grown where the District annually receives 15-20 applications for a wide variety of water projects.  Since its inception in 2009, the District has awarded $1.6 million to individual and organizational applicants.  Last year, the District received 18 applications of which 13 were funded to the tune of just over $191,000.

As part of its mission to “accomplish the greatest possible use for irrigation, domestic, municipal, industrial, mining and all other purposes,” the grant program was formalized in 2009 to serve as a means of providing financial assistance to persons or entities advancing projects that enhance water supply and stream conditions within the District.  Proposed projects must address one or more of the following criteria to be eligible for the grant program:  (1) Development of a new water supply;  (2) Improvement of an existing water supply; (3) Measures to improve instream water quality and water quantity; (4) Measures which promote water use efficiency or irrigation water management, (5) Implementation of watershed management actions, including restoration or protection of riparian habitat; or (6) Research or studies that further the understanding of critical water resource issues in the basin and support implementation of strategic goals of the District.

“While I am very pleased with the increasing number of grant applications we have received throughout the life of the program, I am hoping that more individuals and organization will reach out to the District when they are considering a water improvement project,” said Sonja Chavez, general manager of the District.  “We are here to assist folks with their applications and are willing to consider a wide variety of projects, provided they meet at least one of the above criteria.”  Sonja also noted that there have been a couple of changes regarding utilization of grant funding resources. “The District has begun providing engineering support on more complicated projects and we are more aggressively pursuing outside grant funding to help leverage District funds, she said.”

One project that received funding this past year was the McGowan Irrigating Ditch Diversion Structure Project as submitted by Greg Peterson, president of Peterson Ranch.  In Greg’s application, he noted that historically, logs had been set across Tomichi Creek to act as the diversion structure, which was not efficient and required a lot of labor.  With the funding provided by the District and the required matching funds, a heavy steel pipe was set as a diversion structure. (See photo.)  The design allows most trash/debris to go over the top of the structure and not get caught within the diversion.

“I sincerely appreciate the financial help provided by the Upper Gunnison with this diversion project,” said Greg.  “This allows better irrigation management and less labor to make flow adjustments.”

Grant applications for the 2022 fiscal year will be due in February or March of 2022, so it’s not too early to start planning for a project.  The District will again hold an informational meeting prior to applications being due to review the grant application process and answer questions, so be watching the area media and/or District’s website for further details later this year.  In the meantime, those considering submitting an application are encouraged to call the District now at (970)641-6065 to discuss your project idea.

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