Bessemer Ditch farmers say, “Enough is enough,” for business development along the ditch

Bessemer Ditch circa 1890 via WaterArchives.org
Bessemer Ditch circa 1890 via WaterArchives.org

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Bessemer Ditch farmers have adopted a very worthy cause in actively promoting policies and regulations that recognize the paramount importance of irrigated farming all along the ditch.

Spurred by a proposed gravel mining operation in the Avondale area, 25 farmers said enough is enough. They recently wrote a letter to the Pueblo County commissioners asking for a moratorium on such commercial enterprises that would threaten agriculture along or near the Bessemer Ditch.

Of immediate concern is the proposed Fremont Paving gravel pit that would mine 1,500 acres in an area south of Olson Road and east of 40th Lane. Neighbors of the area known as Badger Hills have filed letters of opposition with the state Mined Land Reclamation Board, which oversees mining applications. We hope the neighbors succeed in getting the state board to reject the application.

Of far broader importance is the efforts of the 25 Bessemer Ditch farmers to persuade Pueblo County to stop development that ultimately could do permanent harm to the historically and economically important business of agriculture.

“A lot of us are tired of having to fight to protect our land,” said Dan Hobbs, speaking for the 25 farmers who ask the commissioners for a moratorium on commercial enterprises affecting the Bessemer Ditch. “It seems like an ongoing challenge. It’s really the culmination of 15 years of trying to defend our interests.”

Tom Rusler, a fourth-generation Avondale farmer, said, “This is the third shot at building a gravel pit in the same area and we’ve had enough. We’re farmers out here and this is like an invasion.”

Rusler said other threats to the ecosystem have included Pueblo Chemical Depot contamination of groundwater and a proposed nuclear power plant that was subsequently rejected by the county commissioners.

The farmers want time to develop changes to Pueblo County’s comprehensive land-use plan that would protect farmland.

With help from the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and Palmer Land Trust, the farmers plan an agricultural landscape analysis for the county.

We applaud these farmers’ crusade to save Bessemer Ditch farmland, considered some of the best in the Western United States. It’s a worthy cause.

Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs
Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

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