Breckenridge to take water from Miner’s Creek to replace Blue River water used higher in the basin
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — While the big trans-mountain water diversions to the Front Range tend to get most of the attention, Summit County’s hillsides are also laced with smaller ditches and channels that move water out of their natural drainages for agriculture, municipal use or snowmaking.
Some of these diversions are more than 100 years old, dating back to the mining era. Last week, the town of Breckenridge got the Forest Service OK to divert water from Miner’s Creek, a Frisco-area stream, up to the North Barton Gulch drainage, where it will flow into the Upper Blue to make up for water that’s used elsewhere in the basin.
Blue River resident Robin Theobald discovered the old diversion ditch more than 10 years ago and notified the town, which decided to take advantage of that flow to enhance its own water portfolio.
The water would be shunted about 2,400 feet from Miners Creek to North Barton Creek and back into the Blue River. The diversion would enable Breckenridge to take more water from the Blue River upstream while still meeting minimum stream flow requirements in the Blue River between the town and Dillon Reservoir.
The historic ditch has been carrying water from Miners Creek to Barton Creek since the mining era, but the flow is not formally controlled or measured.
When Breckenridge first applied for formal water rights to the Miner’s Creek flows, it raised some hackles with a group of residents in the Bill’s Ranch neighborhood. They were concerned that the diversion could affect trout in Miner’s Creek, as well as ditches and ponds in their neighborhood.
Since then, a settlement agreement limited the amount of water Breckenridge can divert while maintaining a minimum stream flow in Miner’s Creek.