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Front Page » August 26, 2003 » Local News » Quiet postwar years explode into expanding reclamation pr...
Published 4,045 days ago

Quiet postwar years explode into expanding reclamation proposals


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By RICHARD SHAW
Staff reporter

When the United States Bureau of Reclamation announced in fall 1947 that the "economically unfeasible" Gooseberry project was being abandoned, the majorilty 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 1930's 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 1860's 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 presidents 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.


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