Cache la Poudre watershed: Michigan Ditch bore on tap for summer

Michigan Ditch photo via
Michigan Ditch photo via

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

Winter is still hanging on in the cold, high mountains around Cameron Pass.

But that hasn’t stopped Fort Collins Utilities from working on a critical project for the city and its residents.

Crews have been clearing snow from the Michigan Ditch Road and the ditch running next to it since around April 1. This is normal procedure given the need to move water along the ditch to city-owned Joe Wright Reservoir, which sits east of the pass along Colorado Highway 14.

But this year the work is a little different. It is being done in anticipation of closing a section of the road to allow construction of a tunnel that would carry the ditch to its destination.

A contractor hired by the city will use a custom-made tunnel boring machine, or TBM, to carve an 800-foot-long, slightly curved path through solid rock. The tunnel will have an 8-foot diameter.

Crews will work seven days a week, 12 hours a day on the project. The boring machine is expected to churn through up to 20 feet of rock a day, said Owen Randall, chief engineer for Fort Collins Utilities.

Once the tunnel is dug, a 60-inch pipe made from a fiberglass-type material will be installed and connected to the ditch, which originates in the upper Michigan River basin.

The TBM, which looks like it could be part of the International Space Station, will be 27 feet long and weigh 58,000 pounds. It will have an operator inside to “drive” it and a conveyance belt and ore cars running out the back to carry away rock chewed up by its massive rotating cutting head.

The machine costs $1.8 million. The city will rent it for $900,000, Randall said, since there’s really no reason for the city to own that kind of machine. When its work is done, it will be sent back to the manufacturer for refurbishing and other jobs.

All this effort is needed because a slow-moving but unstoppable landslide has been roughing up the ditch and its pipeline for some years. Rather than constantly repairing slide damage, which was especially severe in 2015, city officials decided to pay the price to protect the pipe by sending it through rock the slide can’t budge.

The project, including design and construction, is expected to cost Fort Collins Utilities about $8.5 million.

But given that the value of the water the ditch moves (and the rights to that water) is more than $100 million, city officials believe the investment is worthwhile.

The TBM is expected to be delivered and ready to launch in June. Weather and scheduling permitting, the ditch is expected to be operational in time for the 2017 spring runoff.

For more information on the project, see

Boring machine photo via
Boring machine photo via

There’s more plastic debris in the oceans than we think

Summit County Citizens Voice

ocean plastic pollution Looking up through plastic trash floating on the surface of the ocean. Photo courtesy NOAA’s marine debris program.

Study shows ocean dynamics mixing microplastics deep into the water column

Staff Report

There’s no question that plastics pollution in the world’s oceans is a serious and growing problem. One recent study estimated that somewhere between 5 million and 13 million metric tons of plastic waste were dumped into the ocean in 2010 alone, for the sake of comparison, one metric ton is 2,200 pounds, about the weight of a small car.

Other studies focusing on the impacts of all the debris show that plastic poses a risk to sea turtles,crabs and seabirds, while research voyages have shown that the tiny microparticles are to be found nearly everywhere, including the Arctic.

And new research released in April suggests that most estimates of plastics pollution in the ocean may…

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Time to demystify your sprinkler system

Mile High Water Talk

Don’t just ‘set it and forget it.’ You may find yourself in The Twilight Zone.

By Jimmy Luthye

Sadly, I do not have a sprinkler system, nor a yard to call my own. So, you can imagine my confusion when I learned of a widespread problem among those far more sprinkler-savvy than myself; namely, people are often intimidated and, yes, even a bit nervous to go near their sprinkler control box.

Why? Frankly, sprinkler timers can seem complicated if you’re not familiar with them, but that’s no excuse to ignore them. Come with us as we uncover the mysteries of the sprinkler system and show you how to get cozy with your timer. It’ll save you money and water!

When it comes to watering your lawn, it’s critical you don’t just “set it and forget it” all summer. Be sure to check back and adjust often, depending on the month

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