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Commentary and Analysis Regarding Colorado Law

Are Ditch Riders/Superintendents and Other Ditch Maintenance Personnel Essential under the State of Colorado March 25, 2020 COVID-19 Response Executive Order?

Lyons Gaddis COVID-19 Alert

This Alert is one in a collection of articles created by Lyons Gaddis in our effort to get important information to our clients regarding the effect of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the United States.  This Alert focuses on the Colorado “Stay-at-Home” Order and whether Ditch Companies qualify as “Essential.”

April 6, 2020
Are Ditch Riders/Superintendents and Other Ditch Maintenance Personnel Essential under the State of Colorado March 25, 2020 COVID-19 Response Executive Order?
by Lyons Gaddis Water Group

In an effort to reduce the spread of the global pandemic of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, on March 25, 2020, Governor Jared Polis issued a statewide Executive Order mandating Coloradans stay home until April 11, 2020, unless shortened or extended by a subsequent order. The Order carved out exceptions for critical businesses and essential activities. The Governor’s office has issued additional clarification regarding the Executive Order.

If a business is considered critical, or an employee is doing an essential activity, the Order requires that they comply with social distancing mandates (i.e., maintaining a distance of six feet from one another and consistent and thorough hand washing) to lessen the spread of the virus.

The Order does not specifically address whether or not ditch riders/superintendents and the personnel that maintain ditches and canals are essential. These positions, however, are likely essential if the ditch and canals provide water for agricultural irrigation purposes. Critical businesses include “food and plant cultivation, including farming crops, livestock, food processing and manufacturing, animal feed and feed products, rendering, commodity sales, and any other work critical to the operation of any component of the food supply chain.” (emphasis added).

If the ditches provide water for agriculture irrigation purposes, it is logical that the positions that support such services would be considered essential. 

It is expected, over the coming weeks and months, as COVID-19 spreads throughout the state of Colorado, other executive orders will be signed, which may have impacts on public and private entities and more guidance on “essential” workers may be forthcoming.

Attorneys in the Water Group at Lyons Gaddis are available to advise you in relation to ditch company issues and other COVID-19 related matters impacting your current and future operations.

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