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Aug 25, 2005

Fussing Over Water In Colorado

The Army Corps of Engineers has ordered the owners of the Topaz Mountain Ranch in Colorado to remove a damn they constructed on Tarryall Creek, claiming it harmed fish habitat. The creek flows into the Pike National Forest. The ranch owners built the dam in June. The damn, which cut off public access to the creek, diverted the water onto the privately owned ranch property. The Corps originally issued the ranch a permit to construct the damn back in January, which the ranch said would improve habitat on their property. However, the Colorado Department of Wildlife, during a review of the plans back in the spring, became concerned that the plans would harm fish habitat and dry up wetlands. Thereafter, The Corps suspended approval of the plans for the dam, which the owners built anyway. The Corps has given the ranch owners until September 1 to remove the damn and return the creek to its previous condition.

This issue highlights one of the little known facts of property law. A property owner may not own or have absolute right to the rivers and creeks that flow through his property. When this country was settled, streams and rivers were seen as avenues of commerce. In many instances, some rights, to either the water or navigation, were retained by the government, in trust for the people.

Complete Article From Denver Post