FEATURED PROJECT

The Maybell Diversion Modernization Project

Maybell, CO

The Maybell Diversion Modernisation Project (Lower Yampa River, CO) is funded by grants from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART Environmental Water Resources Projects, the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s RESTORE Colorado Program. This project saw the Maybell Irrigation District and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) collaborate to reconstruct and modernize the historic Maybell Diversion and headgate structures to benefit agriculture, the environment, and recreation. 

The Maybell Diversion is one of the largest irrigation diversions on the Yampa River and provides water to about 2,000 acres of irrigated hay meadows in northwest Colorado. The Maybell Irrigation District and TNC collaborated to reconstruct and modernize the historic diversion and headgate structures to benefit agriculture, the environment, and recreation. 

Since 1896, the Maybell Ditch has provided water and economic opportunity for agricultural producers in Northwest Colorado. The Maybell Diversion project has received enormous investments to cover the $6.8 million project cost from a variety of state and federal funding sources; funding from federal grants included Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds. 

“This is an exemplary multi-benefit project with agricultural, environmental and recreational elements that were brought to our attention by the community. Working directly with the water users, we have an opportunity to rectify the diversion while paying attention to what the river needs. Drought conditions highlight that everyone benefits from flows in the river.”

Overhead view of water flowing through the Maybe diversion section of the lower Yampa River.
Located on the lower Yampa River, a tributary to the Colorado River, the Maybell diversion provides water for 18 agricultural producers in northwest Colorado. (Photo: The Nature Conservancy)

The project modernized infrastructure, enabled remote operation of the headgate to the Ditch, and improved control of water delivery to agricultural lands. In the past, fish movement was constrained by low flows in the river, especially during the irrigation season (April –October). The project will help enable fish passage during low flows to allow movement through the diversion and throughout the Lower Yampa. The Maybell reach was considered a recreational use hazard due to landslides, large boulders that blocked the river, and push-up dams that hindered fish and boaters alike. The redesign connected two sections of floatable river with constructed riffles through Juniper Canyon.

Construction on the project began in September of 2023 and was completed in March 2024. Remediation is expected to continue through Spring 2025.

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