Vice-President, Director of Maintenance, Silver Lake Ditch
Tim Ostwald, now 79 years old, grew up on an irrigated farm, homesteaded by his grandfather in the Pine River Valley, near Bayfield in southwestern Colorado. He learned as a youth how to dig, survey, and "turn a full day" with pick and shovel. Working along side his father, who was also a millwright, blacksmith, and steam threshing machine operator, Tim had plenty of exposure to steel and timber framing, ropes, chains and cables, and all the trappings of machinery, sometimes home-made, and often drawn by horses. Tim grew up witnessing the spirit of cooperation, but also the enmity, which sometimes divides neighbors sharing the same ditch. "I learn something new every time I get my boots wet, but most of what I know about ditches I learned before I could spell college," Tim says.
Tim earned a BS and MS degrees in engineering and physics from the University of Colorado, and worked his entire career in aerospace engineering, including 30 years at Ball Aerospace in Boulder. After retirement in 1989, he became more involved in the Silver Lake Ditch, and in 1995 became Vice-president and Director of Ditch Maintenance.
"The Silver Lake Ditch is unique in that we have a 'zero-leak' policy," says Tim. "We can't tolerate leaks because of our long stretch of ditch through town. We have to fix all leaks so that they never leak again." Tim has accomplished several large improvements to the Silver Lake Ditch, during his tenure. He corrected the gradient of the ditch by digging out the high spots. He installed vernier plates on all the day-lateral headgates, to allow fine-tuning of water flow to day-users. He has installed 3300 feet of liner to fix leaks in the ditch, which is 1/6th of the total length of the ditch. He has replaced 230 feet of the 60 year old pipe that is hanging on the cliffs of Boulder Canyon. He has written a How-to-manual for ditch riders. And he has organized a volunteer pool to accomplish the majority of maintenance work. Last year the Silver Lake Ditch paid for 40 hours of labor, and got 600 hours of free labor from volunteers.
"I have a different time-scale than most people," says Tim. "These days, most people are free tomorrow or next week to do something. But if the ditch is running over, I have to grab my boots and get up there right now and fix the problem."