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Front Page » January 12, 2010 » Carbon County News » Post war decisions set future for Gooseberry dispute
Published 1,691 days ago

Post war decisions set future for Gooseberry dispute


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

While it had taken many years to complete the dam, it was finished just in time, because the winters of 1946-48 had extremely heavy snows, and consequently large amounts of moisture. Most who lived during those winters in almost all parts of the state can still remember the deep snows and, more importantly, the high runoffs. Without the new dam in place, the old dam could very well have failed completely, wiping out not only the storage capacity, but creating floods downstream.

In the end the Scofield dam cost $900,000 to build, the cost increasing immensely as it neared completion because of shortages of materials and higher labor costs incurred by lack of laborers. The structure itself has over 170,000 cubic yards of fill and 40,000 cubic yards of rock. It is 575 feet long and it rises 150 feet above the bedrock it is anchored to.

In the fall of 1946 the CWCD assessed the first tax to pay for their portion of the cost of the dam. That assessment was one quarter of a million to begin paying the loan off in 1947 at the rate of $5400 per year for 40 years.

It was at that time that the Gooseberry Narrows project was being thought of once again, despite the fact that Sanpete County had pulled out during the war. It was expected that Sanpete would enter back into the agreement, paying a $116,000 to get back into the joint project with Gooseberry. At that point construction on the new narrows project was expected to start sometime in 1947.

But in November of 1947 the Bureau of Reclamation decided to abandon the project start sometime in 1947.

But in November of 1947 the Bureau of Reclamation decided to abandon the project because they felt it was "economically unfeasible." The director of the BOR, Kenneth Markwell stated that since Sanpete residents would only be paying a small portion of the cost of the project, building it was not recommended. At the time it was felt they could pay back only about $660,000, about one fifth of the cost of the new dam. Since there would be no power development on the project, there would be no other repayment available.

The decision by the BOR was gladly accepted by Carbon County which was wondering what could happen in drought years should Gooseberry be built. It did mean that Carbon would have to pay back the entire amount on the loan, but the county would also gain the water from the drainage that would be lost to a reservoir farther upstream.

However within only a few short years, while the water users in Sanpete County stewed over the BOR decision and Carbonites forgot about any notion of sharing more water from the drainage with them, the concept of the Gooseberry Narrows project would be resurrected in the halls of Congress, through the auspices of the Central Utah Project. When the United States Bureau of Reclamation announced in fall 1947 that the "economically unfeasible" Gooseberry project was being abandoned, the majority of Carbon County residents breathed a sigh of relief.

During the post war years, the United States economy was converting to a consumer society. People were coming home from the military, wanting all the things they had been denied, including new cars and homes.

The work toward many large public projects was set back, as personal goals became all important to make up for lost time.

Infrastructure demands on government became monumental and officials were trying to keep up with the growth taking place.

The situation may have contributed to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's announcement of Gooseberry's demise. But a short time later, rumors of a new move to build the dam started circulating.

In 1946, Sen. Abe Murdock submitted a bill to the U.S. Congress requesting authorization of the Central Utah Project. The funding flow to construct the dams was included in the bill.

However, Congress and the president did not want to sign a similar bill for one state. Murdock was defeated in the election that fall and left the U.S. Senate as a representative of Utah, turning the reins of that seat to Arthur V. Watkins.

The president and Congress wanted an agreement dividing the waters of the four upper basin states of the Colorado River Compact to go along with the CUP bill.

Finally the upper basin states came up with the Upper Colorado River Storage Compact, signed in October 1948.

The compact agreed to continue to supply 7.5 million acre feet to the lower basin states while dividing up the rest of the water. Colorado received 51.75 percent, Utah got 23 percent, Wyoming was given 14 percent, New Mexico was allowed 11.25 percent and Arizona, which falls into the unique position of being in the upper and lower basins, was guaranteed 50,000 acre feet per year.

At the time concerns were raised that the states in the upper basin may have been giving away too much to the federal government. Many feared that an entity much like the Tennessee Valley Authority was being created; a federal bureaucracy that seemed to manage everything from water to tourism from the 1930s on in that part of the country.

In 1948 the new senator from Utah introduced a bill into Congress which denoted the details of the Central Utah Project within the larger framework of what was known as the Colorado River Storage Project. This bill included provisions for building such dams as Echo Park and Split Mountain in Colorado, Joes Valley in Emery County and the Gooseberry Project on the upper Price River, amongst others. The Gooseberry issue was officially back on the table once again.

In April of 1949, the federal government turned the operation and maintenance of the newly completed Scofield Reservoir over to the Carbon Conservancy District. At that point it became the job of the CCD to supply water to the Price River Water Conservancy District for it's use.

In the beginning, when the dam was first completed, there was a contract between the three parties to encourage conservation of water and eventually to measure the output of the streams feeding the reservoir as well as the water that travelled downstream toward Price.

By 1949 all gauging devices had been installed, including those in the laterals used for irrigation in the county, and with that the CCD took over.

Water wise, the county looked to be in good shape for a long time to come. The rights to almost all the water in the drainage had been secured, with the exception of water that fed into Fairview Lake, a body of water that had been created in the late 1860s by Sanpete residents. There the "first in time, first in priority" held and Sanpete received water from that reservoir via a tunnel that had been constructed. However, the CRSP proposals were still hanging in the air, and water users in Carbon County had a right to be nervous.

Two more years went by before anything more official started to emerge concerning new plans as they related to the Gooseberry project. The Korean War had begun and that put everything on the back burner as far as federal projects were concerned.

During the summer of 1951, the president's water resource policy commission produced a report which suggested that Congress should set up separate river basin commissioners and administration for each of the three major basins covered under the Colorado River Compact. They further suggested that the three basins be guided by a chairman who would report directly to the president.

Many in the rural parts of Utah were concerned about this resolution. They felt it would give one person too much power, with no regulatory body overseeing them. Locally fears that commissioners over each subdivision might not be responsive to the water needs of counties was a huge concern.

As the country pulled into the mid-1950's the Korean conflict ended in terms of an active war, and the national government began to concentrate once again on big water projects.

The CRSP and it's CUP division was headed down the congressional road to reality. Trans-basin diversions, providing water for political power house areas such as the Wasatch Front, were the main aspects of the movement, with smaller ones, such as bringing more water from the east slope of the Wasatch Plateau to Sanpete County also being included in the package.

Once again, Carbon County interests would have to fight to keep the Gooseberry Dam from being constructed. And this time, Carbon County would carry the fight from the state and local federal level all the way to Washington, D.C., and the halls of Congress.

Editors note: This is the sixth installment on the Gooseberry Dam controversy.

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