Access to water for irrigation is critical for many stakeholders and Riverbend has helped many clients to improve the delivery and quality of their irrigation water. We are often asked to replace a temporary or a damaged diversion structure with a more permanent feature in the river. Our designs help to deliver the legal water allotment without creating a sediment trap or a fish migration barrier in the river. Our diversion designs usually rely on the careful placement of large boulders, which are permanent, more natural looking, and less costly than concrete structures. Once the water has been diverted, we use hydraulic engineering principles to design conveyance ditches, turnouts, siphons, spillways and other structures to manage our client’s water. Scroll below or use the menu to the right to read more about our irrigation diversion and water delivery systems projects.
Navajo River near Dulce, NM--Jicarilla Apache Game & Fish
Endangered Fish Habitat & Municipal Water Supply Diversion
This project spanned over 4 years and included a river assessment of ~9 miles for possible fish habitat improvements for species of concern, Roundtail chub (Gila robusta) on the Navajo River above Dulce, NM. That assessment has led so far to ~5 miles of river restoration projects, and reconstruction of the main diversion dam for the potable water supply for the town.
To ensure an adequate diversion of water for the community, the existing dam (piled up river gravel and large rocks) required annual maintenance efforts. The old dam also created a fish passage barrier, impeding the Nation’s efforts at recovery of the Chub. The Nation initially considered a much more expensive concept plan for a concrete structure. In the end the diversion was constructed with large boulders and a series of step-pool weirs extending downstream. Native riparian transplants ensured high function and aesthetics as well as reduced annual maintenance costs. This alternative design provides for natural fish passage and minimizes maintenance time and costs significantly.
Riverbend’s services to the Nation included surveying, hydrologic and hydraulic calculations, preliminary and final designs, construction cost estimates, confirmation of 404 & 401 permit exemptions, project specifications and bid documents. In the implementation phase of the irrigation dam modification project Riverbend was hired as the general contractor, and had construction management personnel onsite each day during construction.
Santa Clara Main Irrigation Ditch on Santa Clara Pueblo, NM
The project worked around culturally sensitive areas and multiple tribal member allotments. Riverbend completed an assessment, survey, preliminary design, and detailed cost estimates for all 11 miles of irrigation ditches at Santa Clara Pueblo. This included two diversion headgate structures on the Rio Grande, and the existing diversion concrete dam & sediment weir system in the canyon where irrigation water is diverted into a pipeline. Problems ranged from poorly functioning siphons, to road crossings, and limited hydraulic capacity to deliver water to certain fields. Riverbend staff worked closely with pueblo staff to catalog problems with the existing irrigation water delivery system. This work enabled the Pueblo request funding from the U.S. Congress. In 2013 the Pueblo was granted Funds for the first phase of ditch replacement work. The priority reach was the Main Ditch, from Santa Creek downstream for approximately 1.5 miles (with 24 separate diversion points). Riverbend prepared final construction drawings, specifications and construction cost estimates, and was retained to provide construction inspection during the implementation phase. The final result of the main ditch replacement project is a functional new concrete lined ditch, which meets the hydraulic requirements of the Pueblo water users.
San Juan River in Pagosa Springs, CO
The San Juan River Improvement project included master planning, design, and construction oversight. Improvements included five whitewater waves (with fish passage), two boat ramps, three irrigation diversions, many in-stream fish habitat structures, rehabilitation of two fishing ponds, pedestrian trail extension and connections to public restrooms and parking. The scope of work also includes floodplain analysis of several river sections in preparation for FEMA revisions, design and installation of a shallow groundwater pumping system for irrigation supply, many public meetings and Town Council presentations, grant writing and grant application presentations, and other related consulting.
Micky Mouse Fishing Rod Success in Whitewater Boating Feature
“The white water river feature behind Town Hall receives a little touch-up work Tuesday morning before crews move down to a spot in the San Juan near Yamaguchi Park where they began building the fifth such structure. Chris Pitcher from Riverbend Engineering designed the features and supervises the work while his uncle, Davey Pitcher from Wolf Creek Ski Area, donates the equipment and labor. …”
“On Tuesday, the Pagosa Springs Town Council heard a recommendation from the town’s Parks and Recreation Department to expand whitewater features in the San Juan river through town from four to nine. …”
“A wonderful transformation has occurred in downtown Pagosa Springs over the last couple of weeks, and it’s time to officially thank the various talented individuals and generous citizens who made our new river improvement project such an apparent success.
Through the efforts of these folks a new whitewater feature, as yet unnamed, has been created, and fish habitat and fisherman’s access have been enhanced.
Riverbend Engineering of Pagosa Springs, represented by Chris Philips, Chris Pitcher and Brad Meyer, did the design work, set up the necessary meetings with the various stakeholders, coordinated the construction, and oversaw two weeks of intensive work. Their professionalism and thoroughness made a complex process as smooth and natural as the flow of snow-melt over the new drop. …”
Rio Pueblo de Taos in Taos Pueblo, NM
Irrigation Ditch Headgate Improvements on the Rio de Taos Pueblo, in Taos Pueblo, NM
This project involved replacing of six (6) rock-pile diversion dams (Acequia Madre, Phia-no, C-, South Ash Pile, North Ash Pile, and the Pottery Ditches) with natural looking boulder weirs on the Rio Pueblo, at Taos Pueblo. Historically these diversion dams were constructed by hand placement of rocks, logs, tee-post & fencing, whatever could be accomplished with limited equipment. Prior consultations with local government and federal engineers had the Pueblo to considering expensive gabion or concrete dams. They wanted a more natural alternative, and were referred to Riverbend. The boulder weir approach to diverting irrigation water cost 1/4th to 1/3rd of what a gabion or concrete dam would cost, and looks like a natural system. Riverbend’s services to the Pueblo included surveying, hydrologic and hydraulic calculations, preliminary and final designs, construction cost estimates, 404 & 401 Permit application documents, project specifications, and bid documents. In the implementation phase of the project Riverbend was hired to provide construction oversight. We had construction management personnel onsite each day during construction, helping to direct the placement of large boulders, ensuring that the contractor avoided culturally significant areas, and making sure that the clean water provisions of the federal & state permits were enforced. Materials and workmanship met or exceeded NMDOT standards and specifications. After the project was completed the Tribal Council was very pleased with the project, both for function and beauty.
The Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project and its outgrowth, the Colorado Rio Grande Restoration Foundation is interested in finding ways to improve the historical functions of the headwaters of the Rio Grande in Colorado. A river condition assessment was completed in 2001 of the first 91 miles (from the upstream town limits of South Fork to the Alamosa – Conejos County line) which resulted in a priority list of projects which are being done in phases. The first four phases have been completed, and more in planning and design phases. Also, Riverbend engineering has done a condition assessment study of the last ~35 miles from below the Alamosa Wildlife Refuge to the Colorado-New Mexico state line–download the 2016 final report here.
In the top study area (91 miles) The characteristics of the river are similar in all locations: low gradient, fine grained sediments, active bank erosion and limited woody riparian vegetation. And so, the restoration goals are similar at all of the sites: reduce bank erosion and improve riparian vegetation. By doing so, the health of the river is improved with better shade, reduced water temperatures, improved depth, better continuity of sediment movement and improved riparian habitat. The approach is to 1) flatten the river’s radius of curvature where the curvature gets too small; 2) install rock structures (rock deflectors) on the outside of the re-aligned bends that will resist lateral channel migration and reduce shear stress in the near bank region; and 3) encourage the establishment of a dense riparian vegetation colony on a new floodplain bench on the outside of these same meander bends, so that the vegetation can control the long-term bank stability and rate of erosion/lateral channel migration.
Pecos River near Pecos, NM – UPWA Hatchistery
Construction of several dams for an irrigation diversion had raised the water level by 8 ft, creating a sediment trap and a fish barrier. Riverbend Engineering conducted topographic and stream morphology surveys for the Upper Pecos Watershed Association (UPWA), and proposed a design for the active river channel that would be morphologically stable. The irrigation diversion intake was relocated upstream, reconstructed with large boulders and a sediment sluice was added to the headbox. A series of smaller grade control structures allow for a flatter overall river profile, restoring fish passage and improving sediment transport continuity.
Historic degradation and widening of the river had created shallow flow conditions and limited aquatic habitat for salmonids. Riverbend’s geomorphic analysis documented relatively recent channel bed lowering and straightening of the channel plan form as a result of the incised conditions. The design solution included narrowing the low flow channel of the river, excavating deep pools, adding rock structures and woody debris structures for fish habitat, grading of alternating gravel bars along the active channel, planting of obligate wetland species and riparian adapted native ornamental shrubs to create a parallel riverine wetland.
Pecos River near Pecos, NM – Casdagli
This project restored a section of the river, which was severely damaged by flooding in September, 2013. The project included full replacement of an existing irrigation diversion dam and headbox, installation of in-stream fish habitat structures, restoration of a river side channel as spawning habitat, installation of riparian and wetland plant species.
Mill Creek near Pagosa Springs, CO – Levine
Channel degradation and bank erosion from over-grazing and poor management of irrigation water had led to poor water quality conditions and a lack of riparian vegetation. Riverbend Engineering’s design provided a “two-tiered” channel and floodplain system, where typical irrigation driven low flows would sustain a smaller channel and floodplain inset into a larger channel and floodplain system. Riverbend’s design solution included narrowing and re- shaping of the active channel, grading of point bars and low floodplain areas, preventing bank erosion with rock piles and willow transplants. Grazing limitations were placed on the riparian zone, and new irrigation ditches were cut to better manage their water resources.
Lower Blanco River near Pagosa Springs, CO – LBPOA
In the early 1970s a water diversion was constructed as part of the Colorado River Compact. This diversion takes water from the Blanco and the Navajo Rivers, and transfers that water to the Rio Grande watershed. The Blanco River below the diversion has seen a very limited quantity of water each year since the diversion was constructed. Riverbend’s goals for this project are to improve conditions in the river, making the best use of the remaining water in the channel. Riverbend’s design provided for a narrower channel to convey flows, as well as pool complexes to provide cooling. Restoration of this stretch of the Rio Blanco River was the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s first CWA section 319-funded project aimed at addressing hydrologic modifications. In the last 15 years over 12-miles have been restored so the stream channel now matches the altered flow regime, and the landowners have been educated.
La Plaza Ditch, off Embudo Creek, near Dixon, NM – Acequia de la Plaza
Riverbend Engineering designed this project and Rangeland Hands implemented construction and monitoring. Project involved removing the old diversion dam, which was a pile of small rocks and other debris, rebuilding the diversion weir with large boulders, and installing a steel headbox with a headgate and a sediment sluice.