Bayfield residents are about to see six months of detours after a section of road collapsed on Mountain View Drive, which connects a neighborhood and two schools to U.S. Highway 160.
A culvert, which routes the Schroder Ditch irrigation water under Mountain View Drive, collapsed earlier this month causing part of the road to cave in. The Bayfield Town Board voted Tuesday to close the road until Nov. 2. Repairing the issue, which will likely take three weeks, will instead require six months in order to keep water flowing for irrigators during the summer.
“It’s across the board a tough situation for everyone,” said Paul Black, Schroder Irrigation Ditch board representative.
Detours caused by the closure have become a topic of contention, and town staff has received complaints from residents about traffic, said Katie Sickles, town manager. Mountain View Drive is a primary thoroughfare for traffic to Bayfield middle and elementary schools. The closure at the ditch, just south of Oak Drive, requires traffic to detour north through Dove Ranch and Sossaman roads.
The town’s water and sewer infrastructure also runs under the ditch. The Black Hills natural gas line that runs over the ditch feeds all of northeast Bayfield. The CenturyLink fiber infrastructure over the ditch provides internet to Pagosa, Bayfield and Durango.
The Schroder Ditch, however, existed before Mountain View Drive and has legal priority in decision-making based on Colorado’s “first in time, first in right” water laws.
“The statutes say, basically, whatever the ditch says it needs to maintain their waterways, they can have,” Black said.
Before voting in favor of the six-month closure, the board considered other repair options.
The town asked Black, representing the ditch board, if irrigation flow could stop for a few days. The ditch board said shutting water off was not an option because of water availability, potential drought conditions and priority calls on the ditch’s water, according to the Town Board packet.
“A lot of those guys count on this water for their bread and butter,” said Jeremy Schulz, Bayfield public works director.
The town could install a temporary bridge for five months, which would cost $15,000 to $25,000, plus installation, reinforcement and engineering costs. Then the town would pay more to install a new culvert and repair the road after the irrigation season ends.
Or, Bayfield could install pumps to divert the ditch water during repairs, but that solution was cost prohibitive: It would cost up to $18,000 per week for pumps and fuel, and $10,000 for installation.
“It’s in our best interests to get this fixed once and get it fixed right,” said Mayor Ashleigh Tarkington.
Irrigation water will flow until Oct. 9, after which the town has three weeks for repairs. During that time, the natural gas and broadband companies will likely bore under the ditch, and the town plans to replace the waterline.
The repairs could also fix a long-standing issue in which town stormwater flowed directly into ditch water, raising concerns about stormwater pollution and flooding concerns.
“Nobody is happy about the closure of the road,” Sickles said. “It comes down to what it’s going to cost. If we do it once and we do it right, it will be a good investment of town funds.”