Community Agriculture Alliance: Working for Ag Water Projects

Gena Hinkemeyer
Community Agriculture Alliance

Through the Yampa Integrated Water Management Plan, a wide variety of local water organizations saw a need to advocate for projects that integrate irrigation water management, irrigation infrastructure improvements, and river/riparian restoration. These organizations, along with landowners, put emphasis on the need for support to overcome obstacles such as lack of knowledge of available funding sources and how to combine them, and access to appropriate technical expertise to develop project plans.

In response to this need, a two-year pilot project was put into play to help agriculture irrigators in the Yampa River basin with resources to increase the quantity and quality of projects on private lands. Enter Ag Water Project Coordinators. Ag Coordinators serve as a trusted source of knowledge and support for landowners seeking information on funding and project ideas. Ag Water Coordinators serve as the lead point of contact with landowners, partnering organizations, technical advisors, and contractors to coordinate communications, develop proposals and help find funding opportunities. Here are a few of the pilot projects which utilized grant funds to fill this mission.

In the lower Yampa, new property owners had just bought a property only to find their water rights were on the abandonment list. A local water engineer was brought in to help develop a water plan for the property. The engineer took elevation measurements, drone pictures of the property and summarized a report that contains pump options and irrigation possibilities for the property.

The Bear River Project contains numerous structures, and challenges, in a 12-mile stretch of the Bear River. This stretch of the river is almost always under administration by the Division of Water Resources and has the unique characteristic of freezing from the bottom up. Diversion structures are placed in the spring and taken out in the fall. Permanent structures are needed to provide fish passage and riparian health yet provide the control needed by the irrigators and the Division of Water Resources. The Ag water coordinators are working with an engineer to provide the best practice/structures for this stretch of the river.

An irrigator needed help determining what size water pump was needed to cover all his irrigatable land. The current pump was over 50 years old and not adequately pumping the full water right to the property. Survey data was collected to determine the rise in elevation from the river to the upper most point of the property. Pump size calculations were provided to the landowner.

Coordinators facilitate stakeholder connections and project coordination that had not occurred prior to the pilot program. These connections and coordination enable funds to be leveraged that support the coordinator positions and related projects, and innovative ideas through unexpected partnerships. Coordinators have positioned themselves as trusted point persons who develop meaningful relationships with landowners that result in better outcomes and improvements by providing information on complex grant programs and helping to get the ball rolling on projects that had remained as ideas on paper for years prior. 

Without the collaborative efforts of the River Network and Community Agriculture Alliance, this pilot project would not be possible. If you are an irrigator and would like to learn more, please visit Community Ag Alliance website to find a Coordinator.

Gena Hinkemeyer is the Community Agriculture Alliance Ag Water Coordinator

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