BOR gets earful from Carbon citizens
While the crowd that gathered at the Price Civic Auditorium on Thursday night was small, the advice members of it gave the Bureau of Reclamation was simple.
The Gooseberry Narrows project is flawed in a number of ways and it should not be built.
According to Don Merrill of the BOR, nearly 100 people signed up as they entered the meeting, but not all of them spoke. In fact only a dozen people who entered the room made comments, but as one observer put it, "There wasn't a lot of people here, but all the right ones spoke and said the right things."
The meeting held on Thursday in Price was a follow up to a similar meeting held in Manti in Sanpete County the night before. Reportedly only 25 to 30 people showed up there to voice their opinions about the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement that had recently been released by the BOR.
However, while there was support for the project at the meeting in Sanpete County in Carbon not one person stood in support of it.
"This dam is an outmoded project from an outmoded time," said Rosalie Woolshlager, a member of the board of directors of the Utah Rivers Council. "The Sanpete Water Conservency District is attempting to push Carbon County citizens interests aside. This project is based on greed, not on the interests of the citizens here tonight."
Woolshlager talked about the threat of the proposed reservoir to recreation, economics and water quality. Others added to her comments as the evening went on.
"This project has been touted as a recreational facility that could add to the shortage of those kinds of venues for the Wasatch Front, but the only real shortage is what it will do to Carbon County's water supply," said Carbon County Commissioner Bill Krompel. "There are already many recreational opportunities within 10 miles of the proposed site of the reservoir including Scofield Reservoir and blue ribbon fisheries. Why do you think so many diverse groups across the state oppose this idea?"
Krompel went on to say that Sanpete already gets it's water every year through a series of diversions that already exist.
"They already have 68 miles of ditches and tunnels, which diverts an estimated 10-20 acre feet of water each year (they have a legal right to 5,400 acre feet)," he stated. "This project would put Carbon County in a permanent fresh water crisis."
Krompel pointed out that in drought years the problem would get even worse referring to 1991 when the county had to dispatch road maintenance equipment to Scofield to literally dredge parts of the reservoir out so that more water could be stored.
Gary Sonntag also talked about the 1991 drought and described the efforts to keep water flowing from a very low reservoir as "heroic" with freezing conditions nearly taking out the county's water supply because water wasn't high enough to flow through the release structure.
"If there had been any less water there would have been no chance to make it (the emergency measures) work," he said.
Many who spoke talked about water quality and the problems less water in Scofield Reservoir, the main source of culinary water for most of the people in central Carbon County, would create in water quality and treatment.
"I have been a member of the state water quality board for a number of years and I have often been concerned that when the water is low in Scofield that it is difficult to treat," said Price Mayor Joe Piccolo. "The Price River water drainage already has a high level of phosphorous in it and a limited flow would add to the problems we would have to deal with."
Jeff Richins, Price River Water Improvement District director also talked about water quality and the problems that lower water flows could cause.
"Water quality is a very real issue," said Richins. "Dealing with higher dissolved organics in the water can create acids which are a danger to health. We are already conducting a study this year to remove what we have from the water we treat."
His statement was backed up by Ken Snook, PRWID's water treatment plant manager.
"The SDEIS has not addressed water quality problems the could be brought on should the project be built," said Snook. "Should the water in the reservoir be allowed to drain down 12 times every 43 years such as is suggested in the SDEIS, algae plumes will increase in Scofield and will have an affect on the fisheries total organics. With what we have now we will not be meeting the new regulations EPA has set forth. Our sole source of water is the Price River and in years when the water does spill over the dam our water quality improves."
Carbon County Commissioner Mike Milovich pointed out that if the project is built costs for treating water could go up significantly to protect the publics health in Carbon County.
"Who's going to pay for the expense for extra water processing?" he asked. "This thing needs to redone and brought back to square one."
The effect on industry could also be serious. Cody Allred, a water resource engineer for PacifiCorp also added that the Carbon Power Plant in Price Canyon could be affected but the proposed project.
"The Carbon plant generates 175 megawatts and supplies energy for about 90,000 homes," he said. "The plant has a $33 million budget and much of that is coal for the plant. It has operated since the 1950's and generally uses about 2,100 acre feet of water per year to generate steam, although some years it uses as much as 3000 acre feet. Under the SDEIS the idea that Scofield could be drained down once every three or four years is of concern. In drought years when that happened we needed to lease water from agricultural concerns. That could result in higher cost to customers or the company even having to seek power from other sources (if the water needed to generate powerisn't there)."
Some argued that he SEIS is supplemental in name only and has not been done properly.
"We believe there are fundamental procedural errors that the BOR has made (in preparing the document," said Mike Walquist an attorney for the Carbon Water Conservancy District. "This is a stand alone document (from the original studies done in the 1990s), not a supplement to the previous documents. The comments from 1998 aren't even mentioned in this document. Because of this the agency needs to do the proper scoping procedures before releasing another report."
Walquist also pointed out that the BOR also assessed the proposed dam for a 5.5 earthquake, whereas Scofield's improvements were rated for a 7.0 quake.
"The cost estimates (to build the project) based (on these differences) are significantly underestimated partly due to the earthquake specifications used," he said.
All who spoke said they would be submitting written comments as well. Local water officials have also urged citizens to write to the BOR concerning the SDEIS. Comments may be submitted until Tuesday, June 1, 2010 to: Bureau of Reclamation, Attention: Peter Crookston, PRO-774, 302 East 1860 South, Provo, Utah, 84606-7317; phone: 801-379-1152; facsimile: 801-379-1159; e-mail: narrowsSDEIS@usbr.gov . Please 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 document is available on Reclamation's Web site at: www.usbr.gov/uc/envdocs/index.html for public review.