Hartland Dam Fish & Boat Passage

Delta, Colorado


  • 2D analytical hydraulic modeling
  • Complex evaluations of hydraulic profiles for three parallel but interconnected channels
  • Preliminary and final design
  • Stakeholder/user outreach
  • Permitting assistance
  • Construction inspection and administration

A century-old dam was transformed with major environmental and recreational improvements. Built in 1881, the Hartland Dam was not only degraded, but also dangerous to fish and boaters. An innovative and ambitious plan was conceived to improve diversion of irrigation water, correct public safety issues, add whitewater recreation, and make major strides in saving native fish – breathing new life into this stretch of river for farmers, fish and the community. Our design called for the removal of half of the 100-yard-long dam, replacing it with three separate but interconnected river channels: two fish passages and one for recreation. The three-tiered design promotes native species recovery and extends their upstream range by 15 miles while allowing floating and paddling through the dam site to the town of Delta, all while delivering crucial water to farmers.

Built on partnership between US Fish and Wildlife, irrigation diverters, farmers, and local community – Hartland dam now passes Threatened and Endangered fish and river recreationalists while reliably delivering water to surrounding farms.

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Key Project Highlights

  • Meets U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service criteria for Endangered and Threatened upper Colorado River Basin fish.
  • Designed to withstand 100-year flood events
  • Three separate but interconnected river channels allow for: fish passage in a variety of conditions; passage for weak-swimming species; and boat passage.
  • Innovative Baffled Slot Fishway design passes fish and is low-hazard to river users.
  • Steps added to the existing dam for safety mitigation
  • Received the 2013 American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Colorado Engineering Excellence Award
  • Pit Tagging Study post construction conducted by Colorado Parks and Wildlife has confirmed fish passage success

Hartland Dam

“Everyone is happy with this project…it’s important to remember that the project solved a major safety hazard and has improved the structure that the irrigators can depend upon with confidence, in addition to helping fish. I feel we benefitted a great deal from the partnerships created by this project and look forward to having another opportunity to work with Ben and the McLaughlin team in the future.”

Scott Roth, National Fish Passage Program, National Fish Habitat Partnership Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Region 6