Possible second sabotage of Northglenn’s water diversion gates reported on Berthoud Pass
Grand County Sheriff's Office is seeking information regarding vandalism.
The Grand County Sheriff’s Office reported last Friday that several water diversion gates on Berthoud Pass that deliver water to the city of Northglenn were intentionally damaged or destroyed, creating “monumental losses” for that city.
Northglenn officials first contacted the sheriff’s office on June 22. They reported a theft of water and criminal mischief of the diversion gates on the Berthoud Pass Ditch in Current Creek Basin.
Northglenn collects water from the ditch and diverts it into Clear Creek, said Andy Miller, president of the board of directors of the Upper Colorado River Watershed Group. On June 22, Northglenn staff reported “a sudden and significant decrease in water output routed for Northglenn” on the two days previous to their call. When Northglenn staff responded to the ditch, they found that several water diversion gates were intentionally damaged or destroyed.
Some are questioning whether the vandalism was sabotage by a water conservation group. Kirk Klancke, president of the Colorado River Headwaters chapter of Trout Unlimited, said a similar act happened at the same spot several years ago. In 2019, vandals caused an estimated $1 million worth of damage to the City of Northglenn’s collection system and disrupted both Northglenn and Golden water supplies. At the time, the police called Klancke and asked if Trout Unlimited had anything to do with it, said Klancke.
“It was just after we’d signed an agreement with the water diverters to work together on water issues. I said, ‘We’re not a sabotage group, we’re a conservation group.’ I think this is just people who don’t understand how (water allocation) works.”
In a press release, Sheriff Brett Schroetlin stated, “This type of crime is extremely concerning and is in no way victimless. The residents of the City of Northglenn are directly impacted by this vandalism.”
The vandals removed bolts and wheels from four diversion ditches that stop and release water flow, according to the Northglenn’s Environmental Manager, Tamara Moon. In 2019, vandals did the same thing. That year, both Northglenn and the Grand County Sheriff’s Office put up cameras at the diversions, but Moon said no one was ever caught.
“It came as a complete surprise to us,” said Moon of both acts of vandalism. We didn’t get letters from any Earth Justice type people. We do get responses from (people concerned about the Colorado River Basin) who want to make sure we’re utilizing the water in a responsible way,” but they’ve never received correspondence from groups wanting to dismantle their systems.
Northglenn’s water right on Berthoud Pass is 600 acre feet of water per year, available between May 15 and October 15. Northglenn’s average annual water use is 6,000 acre feet, “so this is about one-tenth of our annual water supply,” said Moon. “It doesn’t seem like a lot, but on a good year, Berthoud Pass water is incredibly important to us. And now that we’re watching climate change change our weather patterns, and summer weather getting drier and drier, getting that water early in the season and being able to use it is one of the ways we can keep our residents from having water restrictions when we see our neighbors not the doing the same.”
Northglenn updated its Water Efficiency Plan in 2020, to “guide the City’s efforts to promote efficient water use and outline water conservation programs.” Colorado and the rest of the Southwest are in the worst stretch of drought in 1,200 years, according to researchers who studied tree rings to determine the data.
Grand County is one of the most heavily diverted counties in Colorado, with millions of gallons of water from the upper Colorado and Fraser rivers being diverted to the Front Range to serve dozens of communities.
Northglenn fixed the problem by replacing the damaged materials with part from a spare gate.
The city is encouraging anyone who might have any information related to the incident(s) to come forward. “We will do everything we can to protect our resource. Respecting the ownership of water rights is critical to fair and equitable distribution of this precious resource in Colorado,” said City Manager Heather Geyer.
The case remains under investigation. If you have information regarding this case is encouraged to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 970-725-3343 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and provide an official statement.
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