Records of the Reorganized Farmers Ditch Company
Scope and Contents
The Records of the Reorganized Farmers Ditch Company consists of documents dated 1878 to 2020, with the bulk falling from 1970 to 2000. All records up to 1982 document the predecessor organization, the Farmers Irrigating Ditch and Reservoir Company, which continued in a limited manner after the Reorganized Farmers Ditch Company was created in 1983, after which most records document the latter company. Legal and financial materials dominate the collection, but comprehensive sets of meeting minutes exist, along with fairly complete sets of early stock certificates and later water records. Supplementing these typical written documents of ditch companies are several items worth noting, including maps of the entire ditch and some of its features, ditch rider diaries, and photographs of the ditch, though these are primarily of flood damage. The collection also contains original newspaper articles describing the 1982 flood as well as related publications.
- Majority of material found within 1970-2000
- Reorganized Farmers Ditch Company (Organization)
Restrictions on Access
Series 1, 2, 4, and 5 are open only to shareholders of and attorneys for the Reorganized Farmers Ditch Company. Series 3, 6, and 7 are fully accessible to anyone. However, the collection is stored off-site, so advance notice is required.
Restrictions on Use
Not all of the material in the collection is in the public domain. Researchers are responsible for addressing copyright issues.
The Reorganized Farmers Ditch Company was created in 1983 as a mutual ditch company in the state of Colorado from unusual circumstances. The predecessor organization was the Farmers Irrigating Ditch and Reservoir Company. The main purpose of both companies has been to store and deliver water for irrigation. (Note: in documentation, an apostrophe occasionally appears at the end of "Farmers" for both companies; it is omitted in this guide for consistency.)
In November 1878, a group of men formed the Farmers Irrigating Ditch Company and issued 30 shares of stock. By 1892, the company renamed itself the Farmers Irrigating Ditch and Reservoir Company, thus representing the new inclusion of water storage. The company's ditch draws from the north side of the Big Thompson River, just south of Loveland, Colorado, in Larimer County. The ditch stretches northeast 11.2 miles into Weld County, crossing Interstate 25 near U.S. Route 34. Their water storage is upstream in Lawn Lake, a natural mountain lake at which a dam was constructed by the company in 1903 to enlarge the lake for additional storage. In 1915, the wilderness surrounding the lake became Rocky Mountain National Park. In 1931, the company enlarged the dam by 4 to 5 feet of height.
On July 15, 1982, the 26-foot-high earthen dam failed unexpectedly, releasing Lawn Lake down the Roaring River into Fall River and flooding the town of Estes Park, 12 miles away. The disaster took three lives and caused approximately $31 million in damage. Extensive litigation and investigations ensued, eventually ending in a settlement in 1989.
Following the dam failure, the Colorado State Engineer's Office determined the most likely cause to be an internal leak at the connection between the outlet pipe and the gate valve, due to deterioration of lead caulking. In addition to the resulting litigation, effects of the flood included statewide examination of dam safety and ditch company liability insurance issues.
In March 1983, the Reorganized Farmers Ditch Company was officially created due to the aftermath of the 1982 flood. The new company leased Farmers' facilities by common agreement and issued 30 shares of stock.
The Reorganized Farmers Ditch Company has been a party to extensive litigation concerning federal reserved water rights in the South Platte River Basin in the USA case begun in the late 1970s and extending into the 1990s. It has also dealt with modern issues facing ditch companies such as urban encroachment and ongoing facility maintenance, repairs, and upgrades.
29.25 linear feet (56 document boxes, 2 flat boxes)
Language of Materials
The Reorganized Farmers Ditch Company was created in 1983 as a mutual ditch company in the state of Colorado from unusual circumstances. The predecessor organization was the Farmers Irrigating Ditch and Reservoir Company. The main purpose of both companies has been to store and deliver water for irrigation, drawn from the Big Thompson River. Legal and financial materials dominate the collection, but comprehensive sets of meeting minutes exist, along with fairly complete sets of early stock certificates and later water records. Supplementing these are maps of the entire ditch and some of its features, ditch rider diaries, and photographs. The collection also contains newspaper articles describing the 1982 Lawn Lake flood as well as related publications. Three series are open to the public: water records, printed materials, and photographs; the remainder are open only to current RFDC shareholders and attorneys.
Though the collection arrived in substantial disarray, there were groupings of materials by type, with some organized chronologically. These material types were arranged into the following series and further refined as appropriate.
The collection consists of 7 series in 58 boxes:
Series 1: Minutes and administrative documents, 1878-2018
Series 2: Stocks, 1882-2017
Series 3: Water records, 1940-2014 and undated
Series 4: Financial records, 1882-2018
Series 5: Legal records, 1884-2018 and undated
Series 6: Printed materials, 1952-2000 and undated
Series 7: Visual media, c. 1900-1986 and 2016-2020
The Records of the Reorganized Farmers Ditch Company was donated to the Water Resources Archive by the company's board members in January 2011. Additional materials were donated in December 2011, February 2012, January 2013, November 2015, February 2017, November 2018, and February 2021.
The company saved extensive financial documentation over the years. Since redundancies existed between invoices, receipts, bills, cancelled checks, check registers, and bank statements, materials were appraised to reduce the most extensive redundancies as possible, typically by removing receipts, invoices, and bills. Cancelled checks were removed when the corresponding check register duplicated the information. Additionally, tax documents related to individual employees were removed. Also removed was a set of monthly Division 1 water clerk resumes from the period 1985 to 1992, as they are available in Water Court. All documents not retained in the collection were returned to the company.
Some documents and media have been scanned and digitized and are available through the Colorado State University Libraries website. In the electronic version of this document, direct links appear in context.
Processing of the original donation and the first two accessions was completed in March 2012. All materials were cleaned of dust and cobwebs and refoldered and reboxed in acid-free supplies. Paperclips, binder clips, rubber bands, and rusty staples were removed; plastic clips were used as replacements as necessary. Acid-free paper was inserted as a buffer for acidic papers where possible. Folded documents were unfolded, except those larger than regular-size folders. Photographs were rehoused in polyester sleeves and negatives were inserted in acid-free envelopes. Blank forms, tax booklets, and duplicates beyond two copies were removed, with the exception of the legal series, where voluminous second copies were removed. Similar processing of the 2013, 2015, and 2017 accessions was completed in March 2017. Similar processing of the 2018 and 2021 accessions was completed in April 2021.
- Big Thompson River (Colo.)
- Dam failures -- Colorado -- Roaring River Valley.
- Ditches -- Colorado.
- Farmers Irrigating Ditch and Reservoir Company.
- Floods -- Colorado -- Roaring River Valley.
- Irrigation -- Colorado.
- Larimer County (Colo.)
- Lawn Lake Dam (Colo.)
- Reorganized Farmers Ditch Company.
- Water-supply -- Colorado.
- Weld County (Colo.)
- Guide to the Records of the Reorganized Farmers Ditch Company
- Edited Full Draft
- Prepared and revised by Patricia J. Rettig
- Copyright 2021
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the CSU Libraries Archives & Special Collections Repository
Fort Collins Colorado 80523-1019 USA