GREELEY - Coloradans are debating whether rivers that strayed as much as three-quarters of a mile in last month's floods can or should be moved back to their old channels.
Irrigation companies that pull water from rivers for farmers to use on crops say the old channels should be restored where rivers moved away from diversion structures.
Otherwise, they say, those structures would have to be replaced at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Dick Wolfe, head of the state Division of Water Resources, says the issue raises many questions, including who would pay for moving the rivers and who has the authority to do so, the Greeley Tribune reported Thursday.
"This issue could be complicated," Wolfe said.
"In the several instances where ditch companies or others had structures that were washed out or had other damage, it's fairly clear how those repairs should be done. But in the cases where the rivers cut a whole new channel ... there's still a lot of discussions that need to be had," he said.
The floods, triggered by unusually heavy rains, caused eight deaths and damaged or destroyed nearly 1,800 homes.
State officials have not issued a comprehensive damage estimate, but the state Department of Transportation says it will cost about $475 million to repair or replace state highways and bridges. About 200 miles of roadway and 50 bridges maintained by the state were destroyed.
Rivers must be reconnected to diversion structures before spring, when farmers need irrigation water, said Steve Schultz, board president of the Ish Reservoir and Ditch Co.
The company provides water to about 15,000 acres of farmland, but the Little Thompson River cut a new channel away from its diversion structure.
"It's definitely something we need to get done ... and fairly quickly," Schultz said.