BOR releases SDEIS report on Gooseberry project
This past weekend principals in the fight over whether the Gooseberry Narrows project should move forward got a gift in the mail of sorts.
That gift, a copy of the newest EIS on the project, was good or bad, depending on which side the recipient was on.
The package that arrived means that the Bureau of Reclamation has completed the Narrows Project Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) they have been working on for a few years. They stated in a series of emails sent to media that they did it in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. It will be published in the Federal Register immediately. The document will be filed with the Environmental Protection Agency. The 63-day public review period begins right away and will culminate on Tuesday, June 1, 2010.
The Narrows Project SDEIS describes the effects of Reclamation issuing to the Sanpete Water Conservancy District (SWCD) a loan pursuant to the authority of the Small Reclamation Projects Act, as well as issuing to the SWCD a right of use of federal lands in accordance with reclamation law. These reclamation actions would facilitate the construction by SWCD of the proposed Narrows Dam and reservoir, a non-federal project proposed to be located on Gooseberry Creek in Sanpete County. The loan application and request for a right of use of federal lands by SWCD to build the Narrows Project is intended to meet the purpose of developing an irrigation and municipal and industrial supply source for water users in northern Sanpete County.
The building of such a dam has been a sticking point between the counties for well more than 70 years. Basically Sanpete proponents believe that the water that falls within their county should be theirs for the using, while Carbon (and Emery county as well) feels that the natural drainage should be maintained. While there is presently a diversion tunnel that runs from the top of the Wasatch Plateau to Sanpete which already creates a trans-basin diversion, Sanpete feels it can only maintain enough water to get through the runoff months and have no storage capacity to maintain water throughout the irrigation season.
Carbon interests say that building the dam would take away water from Scofield Reservoir - the main water supply for western and central Carbon County.
Many political and court battles have been fought about the building of the dam over the years. The situation has never been permanently settled.
In recent years it was thought that the situation had been worked out a number of times, but negotiations between the parties have fallen through.
Reclamation says the release of this SDEIS does not imply either approval or denial of the Small Reclamation Projects Act loan application or the request for authorization to use withdrawn lands. Reclamation said that if it approves the Small Reclamation Projects Act loan and right of use of federal lands in accordance with Reclamation law, and Congress appropriates the necessary funds to do so, a supplemental water supply would be developed by SWCD.
Two public hearings have been scheduled for the public to provide comments to Reclamation. The BOR points out however, that reaction to the comments will not be addressed during the hearings.
The first meeting will be on Wednesday, April 28, 2010, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Manti City Hall, 50 S. Main Street, on the 2nd floor of the building.
The second meeting will take place on Thursday, April 29, 2010, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Price Civic Auditorium.
The BOR has stated that these hearings will be recorded by a court reporter and all hearing statements (oral and written) will become part of the public record for this SDEIS. According to their press release in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, all comments (oral and written) are given full and equal consideration.
Comments on the SDEIS may be submitted until Tuesday, June 1, 2010 to the Bureau of Reclamation, Attention: Peter Crookston, PRO-774, 302 E. 1860 S., Provo, Utah, 84606-7317; phone: 801-379-1152; facsimile: 801-379-1159; e-mail: narrowsSDEIS@usbr.gov. The BOR asks that citizens be aware that all personal identifying information (including name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, etc) provided as part of a comment, may be publicly available as part of the public record. Requests to withhold this information cannot be guaranteed.
The actual SDEIS is available on Reclamation's Web site at: www.usbr.gov/uc/envdocs/index.html.