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Front Page » December 4, 2003 » Local News » BOR Publishes Intent to Release Gooseberry Dseis
Published 3,789 days ago

BOR Publishes Intent to Release Gooseberry Dseis


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By RICHARD SHAW
Staff reporter

The publication of intent to release a draft supplemental environmental impact statement (DSEIS) concerning the Gooseberry-Narrows project was recently published by the United States Bureau of Reclamation.

On Nov. 25, the Federal Register printed a request for a small reclamation project loan to construct the Narrows Dam in Sanpete County.

The informational notice included a summary of the dam, the history of the proposal and the proposed action involving the project.

However, the notice did not include the date BOR will release DSEIS or when public hearings or comment periods for the document will take place.

During a Sept. 22 scoping meeting at the Carbon County Courthouse, an official of the federal agency said the document would be released in the middle of November, with a comment period running basically through the middle of January.

But since then, a number of things have happened that seem to be delaying the release.

One of the things was a letter from the United States Army Corps of Engineers expressing concerns that BOR had not sufficiently studied the impact on entities presently use the waters of the Price River drainage.

Instead, the letter pointed out that the federal agency had concentrated on the benefits the project would provide to Sanpete County.

The letter spelled out 21 points of concern regarding the information BOR had gathered.

In the Federal Register, BOR indicated that new information included in the DSEIS will contain:

•Updated hydrology studies through 2002.

•Updated water quality studies through 2002.

•Updated population and demographics based on the 2000 census.

•Updated water usage and recreation data.

•Added discussions regarding Skyline mine water development.

•Updated brown trout habitat suitability curves.

•Updated cost estimates.

•Updated wetlands delineations.

•Added discussion and analysis related to a proposed wild and scenic rivers designation for Gooseberry Creek.

•Updated Endangered Species Act compliance for Colorado pike minnow in the lower Price River.

The notice also outlined the reasons why Sanpete Water Conservancy District (SWCD) proposes to build the dam.

"Demand for municipal water for the present and the future use currently exceeds the available supply" and construction of the dam would "offset current shortages and accommodate anticipated population growth in the project area," indicated document.

The notice pointed out that agricultural water is often short in Sanpete during July, August and September and the project would ensure "late season irrigation."

A third point noted that the present Gooseberry (Narrows) tunnel that transfers water from Fairview Lake to Sanpitch drainage "is in need of rehabilitation to maintain and enhance its dependability and capability to deliver water" to Sanpete County.

The debate about the Gooseberry-Narrows project has been going on for between 70 and 100 years.

Official records of discussions and agreements about the matter started in the 1930s.

The project was declared dead for different reasons during the years, including the lack of money at the beginning of World War II to build such a project, the extreme cost verses the benefits and environmental impacts of such a move.

The majority of the discussion about the project has centered around water for agriculture in northern Sanpete County.

But the first reason identified under the purpose and need for action in the notice concerns municipal water use, a point that opponents of the project have been vocalizing for years.

If the proposed dam and reservoir are constructed, the collection system will draw water from the upper Price River drainage. The proposed dam will lower the supply of available to Scofield Reservoir, Carbon County's primary water supply for agricultural, industrial and municipal use.

In a related action, special service district board member Sam Quigley has requested that the Utah Mining Association come out against the Gooseberry-Narrows project.

Quigley acts as vice president of operations for Andalex Resources, Inc. The company operates a mine and coal facility in Carbon County.

In the letter to association president Greg Fredde, Quigley pointed out that the "availability of water in Carbon County is vital to the future of Carbon County's industry and Utah's coal mining industry."

"As we deplete the high quality reserves of Utah (coal), lower quality reserves will be mined necessitating the use of wash plants to upgrade the coal to a marketable level. Wash plants demand significant volumes of water to operate," explained the Andalex Resources vice president. And the construction of the project will "jeopardize the availability" of that water.

In addition, Quigley's letter pointed out that power generation could be affected, too, since the plants are dependent upon large amounts of water to create steam to drive turbines that turn the generators.

The last concern raised by Quigley has been addressed by several Utah electricity producers and suppliers. According to the utilities, lowering the amount of available water could directly affect the Carbon plant in Price Canyon, particularly in drought years when flows drop in the river.


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