Federal legislation authorizes repairs on Bolts Ditch above Minturn | VailDaily.com

Federal legislation authorizes repairs on Bolts Ditch above Minturn

Diverting water from Bolts Ditch is a key part of any future plans to expand Bolts Lake

This photo, from 1908, shows two people boating on Bolts Lake near Minturn. New federal legislation is a key part of possible future plans to expand the lake using water from Cross Creek.
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The bill

Rep. Joe Neguse included language to allow repairs to Minturn’s Bolts Ditch in a bill that permanently authorizes the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The bill passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law March 12 by President Donald Trump.

MINTURN — Getting an act of Congress can take months in the best of circumstances. It took years to get an act that could improve local water supplies.

President Donald Trump on March 12 signed into law a bill that includes language allowing repair to the headgate on Bolts Ditch above Minturn. That language was put into the bill by Rep. Joe Neguse, whose Second Congressional District includes Minturn.

The Bolts Ditch headgate in 1980 was inadvertently included inside the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. That meant the structure — which diverts water from Cross Creek — couldn’t be repaired or rebuilt.

In 2006 or so, the local office of the U.S. Forest Service granted permission to rebuild the structure. Equipment and material was hand-hauled to the site. But local officials don’t have the authority to override federal regulations, so the same crew had to hike in and remove what had been built.

For several years now, town officials, led by Minturn Town Council member George Brodin, have been working to get federal approval to work on the headgate.

Minturn Town Council member Earle Bidez said the first attempt was a letter to President Barack Obama asking for executive action. That didn’t work, so the town started lobbying for Congressional action.

Then-Rep. Jared Polis in 2014 introduced legislation allowing repairs or replacement of the headgate. That legislation never gained approval by both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

The Bolts Ditch language finally was put into a bill that was passed and signed.

The ditch is important because it can be used to gravity-fill Bolts Lake, and that’s an essential component of possible development plans for the area. The lake and surrounding property is currently owned by the Battle Mountain Corporation, and there are drawing-board plans to expand the lake to 1,200 acre feet. That would make the lake bigger than Nottingham Lake in Avon.

But a lot has to happen before the reservoir can be expanded.

Minturn Town Manager Michelle Metteer said any plan to expand the reservoir would require a partnership of the property owner, the town, and, probably, the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, which manages Minturn’s wastewater system.

But, Metteer said, the idea of expanding Bolts Lake should be attractive to a number of parties.

“Colorado needs more upper-basin (water) storage,” Metteer said. “We need to have conversations about that.”

For now, though, both Bidez and Metteer said they’re excited to finally have approval to fix a structure that could be the key to adding more water storage to the upper valley.

“It’s a good resource to have in that location,” Bidez said. “It’s a valuable resource to have.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.