Letter to the editor: Resource needs more respect
The article in the July 23 issue of the Sun Advocate (PRWID officials discuss division of water shares) stated that water had been going over the spillway at Scofield Reservoir this year. That is incorrect. The highest level reached, according to the Bureau of Reclamation web site, was 7,612.95 feet on June 5th. At the time the reservoir level was rising at a rate of a foot every nine days with a release of 75 cubic feet per second (cfs). On June 5th the release from the dam was increased to 250 cfs and the level started to decrease. Scofield Reservoir, when full, has an elevation of 7,617.5 feet. That means the reservoir at its highest point was below the spillway elevation by 4.55 feet.
Almost all of the other local reservoirs have filled this year but Scofield was not one of them. I'm not sure why the reservoir was not allowed to fill this year. It could be that the Bureau of Reclamation wanted to keep it from spilling until the work that was done on the dam and spillway structure was fully accessed. It could also be associated with the long running battle with Sanpete County over water. If Scofield were to spill then Sanpete County could come back and say that Carbon County has more water than they need.
Water management from Scofield Reservoir has always been a somewhat of a mystery to me. The release from the dam was increased in the spring when there was adequate water flowing in White River to handle the demand by water users. I'm sure the dispute over the Gooseberry Narrows project has an influence on water management.
The operation of the dam has always shown little regard for protecting the fishing resource that exists downstream. Lower Fish Creek is one of only two streams in the southeast region that is designated as a Blue Ribbon Fishery. It has become a destination for a good number of anglers, both locally and from out of our area. When flow changes are required on other tail water fisheries in the state, the changes are made over a period of time that will allow fish to relocate in the stream in order to survive. That doesn't happen at Scofield. Last year there was a fish kill on the upper portion of the creek due in part to the sudden increase of water flow from the dam. Other times of the year the water flow is shut off completely. There is no instream or minimum flow agreement in place so the water users have every right to shut it off.
Several conservation groups have tried to purchase water over the years to maintain a small instream flow, but have been unable to do so. This stream is a valuable resource to our area and our local businesses benefit from it. It would be nice if we could at least show the resource a little more respect.