Dahl v. Rettig

In Dahl v. Rettig (1973) 32 Colo.App. 87 506 P.2d 1251, the dominant tenant had a right-of-way over a road that crossed a creek in two locations. (Id. at p. 88.) At one of the locations, the crossing was by means of a ford. (Ibid.) Because the creek was difficult to ford in times of high water, the dominant tenant installed an earth-covered culvert at that crossing with the consent of the servient tenement, but the culvert washed out. (Id. at pp. 88-89.) When the dominant tenant proposed to build a steel and concrete bridge over the crossing, the servient tenant refused his permission, and the dominant tenant brought suit. (Id. at p. 89.) The trial court allowed the dominant tenant to build a bridge "of construction similar to those erected by the servient tenant at other stream crossings on his property," but refused to allow the dominant tenant to construct the "elaborate" bridge he proposed. (Ibid.) On the servient tenant's appeal, the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed. With respect to "the problem of constructing a bridge where one did not previously exist," the court held: "If a right-of-way is so located that it crosses a stream, as in the case at hand, the holder of the right-of-way has a right to do such things as are reasonably necessary to maximize use of the right-of-way. We conclude that this includes constructing a bridge which is reasonably designed to afford efficient use of the right-of-way and which is harmonious with similar structures within the vicinity." (Dahl v. Rettig, supra, 32 Colo.App. at p. 91.)