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Front Page » February 16, 2010 » Carbon County News » Deferred action meant lot of conflict over water
Published 1,678 days ago

Deferred action meant lot of conflict over water


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

On March 1, 1955, the inevitable happened as it came to the Gooseberry Dam project being included in the Central Utah Project Bill. Nothing had changed in the office of the Utah Water and Power Board nor at the congressional level. The Gooseberry dam appropriations were still figured in the bill before a U.S. Senate sub-committee. At that point, four men from Carbon flew from Salt Lake to Washington to go before officials to oppose the bill.

The delegation included Price Mayor William J. Welsh, Helper Mayor Steve Diamanti, Carbon civil engineer John Bene and Irvin Gerber, representing the water companies of the county. The trip was financed by the companies in conjunction with the county and city governments.

Sanpete County also sent a delegation to counter the Carbon group. Representating Sanpete were two lawyers, one from Manti and one from Mount Pleasant.

Upon arriving at the U.S. Capitol, the Carbon group met with the Utah congressional delegation to lobby the representatives to re-express their views. But the delegation had already committed to support the irrigation project for Sanpete County.

By the end of the day, the sub-committee also had possession of copied documents that presented the history of the proposed project and Carbon's case against Gooseberry's construction.

One main argument made against the project was the fact that Carbon water concerns existed in the natural drainage of Gooseberry Creek and Sanpete's diversion would change the balance.

Another argument was the cost of the project. Had Gooseberry been built in the early 1940s, the cost would have been less than constructing the Scofield Dam. But by the mid-1950s, the cost had jumped to nearly $6 million based on BOR estimates. The total valuation of property in Sanpete County at the time was only $13 million so the argument pursued a path of cost verses value.

Eastern Utah interests also argued that Carbon's economy had always been based on the water coming out of the drainage, but that none of Sanpete's had been supported by the water the county wanted out of the project. Basically, Carbon concerns contended that, if the dam were built, the CRSP would be robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Meanwhile, the Utah congressional delegation was trying to convince the Carbon group not to go before the sub-committee, claiming that if part of the CUP were lost, all of it could be in jeopardy. But the Carbon group would not be deterred.

At midweek, the Carbon delegation appeared directly before the sub-committee and testified for more than an hour about the local side of the issue. Senators on the subcommittee were from New Mexico, Wyoming and California, in addition to Arthur Watkins of Utah, who had introduced the original bill.

In addition, the Carbon County representatives met with a large group of congressmen who wanted to hear the local arguments as well.

When the delegation returned to Price the next weekend, the members felt that, if the Gooseberry project were included in the bill, it would only be on a conditional basis.

A few days later, the bill was submitted to the full committee. Once again, a delegation from Carbon County decided to return to Washington since Utah congressional representatives as well as state water board officials were trying to push the bill through as written. Welsh and Price attorney Therald Jensen traveled to the U.S. Capitol and, on March 17, presented the same arguments to the Senate committee conducting hearings on the bill.

In the meantime, Watkins released a statement declaring that the bill needed to go to a vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate. He expressed the hope that Carbon and Sanpete "would get together and resolve their differences in a manner which would satisfy the water needs of both counties ..."

Carbon officials and residents were upset by Watkins' statements. Telegrams from the community started to pour into Washington, D.C. The telegrams were particularly keyed toward several important congressional leaders. The crescendo of contacts continued for more than two months as the bill was modified and changed time and time again.

In the middle of June 1955, the word came back to Carbon County that a number of projects included the original bill were being "deferred" until later dates. The list of deterred projects included the Gooseberry dam.

Carbon interests were ecstatic, since the fight had seemingly been won. But it was a temporary, and somewhat hollow victory. The introduction of Gooseberry into the folds of the CUP would bring the project back to life repeatedly over the next 50 plus years.

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