By Chuck Sylvester July 29, 2017
In the 1860’s, when settlers first arrived in a river bottom area northeast of the town of LaSalle, CO, they found a large flat fertile valley. But they faced a problem of swampy surface areas filled with cattails and reeds.
That didn’t stop these hardy people. With Ox Teams, draft horses and slips, and a hell of a lot of hard work, they dug a ditch starting at the foot of the valley’s hill. This ditch, called a “seep ditch” because it took care of the swampy “seep,” was originally 5 miles long. It carried the excess seep water out of the valley and dumped it into the S. Platte River.
Draining this swamp resulted in a flat fertile useful valley of heavy top soil. It became known as the Godfrey Bottom, so-named after Holon Godfrey, one of the first settlers.
With close proximity to the river, the settlers put water to beneficial use and perfected their Water Rights March 10, 1870 Territory of Colorado.
They received an Allotment Quantity. This is unrelated to Consumptive Use, for none knew what they would grow. Consumptive Use changes, Allotment Quantity doesn’t.
Originally, the new irrigation ditch was referred to as Section 3 of the 5 mile stretch. It was later named the Godfrey Ditch Company.
Removing the seep left the Godfrey bottom with ideal soil. And with an excellent source of irrigation water the Farmers were now able to grow corn, sugar beets, alfalfa, beans and other crops.
Over a century later, some elected officials and quasi government agencies noted the privately owned seep ditch as an excellent way to get water from other sources to the river. Trying to get water to growing metros like Denver, they partnered and began running rough shod over water rights owners, ditch companies, and private “seep” ditches.
This partnership does not respect Colorado’s Water Doctrine of Prior Appropriation or privately owned ditches. When private property owners legally demanded the dumpers stop their illegal dumping, the dumpers responded with the claim, “any ditch” – whether seep or irrigation - had a duty to carry any water any water they want to dump in it.
Their dumping of water in a ditch that was designed to drain water, is slowly reversing productive agriculture land back to a pre-1866 swamp.
In this short video, you will clearly see the dramatic differences between land that’s still producing healthy corn, and the swampy areas. The still drained areas have tall, healthy tasseled corn, and the swampy areas have stunted yellowish corn or just plain dirt and standing water.
The illegal dumping of water into this privately owned seep ditch has already destroyed a once thriving grass hay field, and has taken nearly 10 acres of my property out of production.
This partnership’s actions are akin to a city, blowing out its fire hydrants into any nearby swimming pool.
I felt compelled to provide this brief for you, because it’s been my experience that media refuses to cover substantive problems Water Rights Owners are having with such partnerships.I am hopeful your awareness of this truth will result in stopping partnership’s illegal dumping and destruction of private property.
Thank you for watching and reading,
Charles W. Sylvester
4th generation on the 151 year old Sylvester Farm