it's time to fight hard for our community's dreams
Most of us have the dream that someday our kids to be able to find jobs and live here in Carbon County. Almost everyone in the area has lost someone to another local because of the lack of diversity in employment here. To have new industry move to our area we must have the resources they need here, and one of the most important is enough water so that businesses can function.
With the notice of the pending release of the supplemental draft environmental impact statement concerning the Gooseberry Narrows Project in the Federal Register two weeks ago, the time table for that release is ticking down as certain as water travels down the Price River from the Wasatch Plateau.
Traditionally the document is released 30 days after the notice is published, which means it should come out around Christmas day.
In recent weeks, opponents to the construction of the dam, have pointed out some issues aside from those that concern the damage such a project would do to Carbon County's water situation. These problems concern water use and if the project will really benefit Sanpete County.
One of the problems those in opposition cite is the cost of the project. At present the financials released by the Bureau of Reclamation list the cost for the dam, mitigation, rehabilitation of the present Fairview Tunnel, moving Highway 264, a number of pipelines and other construction would amount to about $25 million. However, one must remember that this is just an estimate. It could and probably will go up, possibly millions of dollars.
Sanpete may have some of the money to do this, but the Sanpete Water Conservancy District (SWCD) will have to find the funds somewhere to pay back loans and possibly other costs on the project. That could mean a tax increase for all residents of Sanpete County, yet the water will only benefit the northern part of the area; mostly areas around Fairview and Mount Pleasant. Places like Gunnison, Manti and Ephraim will get little benefit from the water, yet they will have to pay those taxes. That kind of tax structure would be tatamount to the Price Water Improvement District charging residents of East Carbon and Sunnyside for the costs of improving the districts system, despite the fact that they have no improvements in that part of Carbon County.
Right now Sanpete has a system that will deliver about 61,000 acre feet of water per year from various sources. Most of the system is very inefficient with lots of open, unlined canals and few improvements in the offing to cut down the loss of water. According to some sources the system loses about half of the water put into it each year before it reaches farmers fields.
Right now one of the complaints the water users in northern Sanpete County have is that they don't have enough water for agricultural use in late July and August. Considering the amount they would need to raise that crop, the 5400 feet they would divert each year out of the proposed Gooseberry Reservoir would only supply a small portion of what was needed. Where would the rest come from?
Another quizzical part of this equation is the tunnel. In a recent letter from the BOR to Carbon County Commissioner Bill Krompel the BOR said that the SWCD could not presently use the Fairview Tunnel to divert water because it is privately owned. Yet a large chunk of money from the presented financials is being used to rehab the tunnel so the water can be transported from the proposed reservoir. What would make it possible then that doesn't make it possible now.
But more importantly, if the tunnel is substandard as has been suggested, and could carry the water if rehabilitated, why not build the tunnel, and then see how much water could be carried and diverted without a reservoir, before spending all that cash for a concrete plug in the stream? The new tunnel could be state-of-the-art and could be monitored to check up on flows, rather than the current system that has little gauging. Sounds likes an idea the taxpayers of Sanpete might like to try before they spend other millions of dollars to build the dam.
There are certainly a lot of questions for the other side of the mountain to answer, not only for those on this side of the divide, but on their own slope too. Nonetheless, they seem to want to go ahead with the whole thing.
That being what it is, it is time for people in Carbon County to take action on this issue and to help stop this project before it moves any further down the road. This is not a concern that most citizens can sit on their hands about; it involves everyone's welfare and livelihood, because without the water we already have, we will never be able to grow industrially or residentially.
First, county residents need to take a lesson from environmental groups, conservationists and preservationists and do what they do when an environmental impact statement is due for public comment. Carbon people need to flood officials with regular mail and electronic mail. When the environmental assessment came out for the Stone Canyon seismic project near Nine Mile Canyon a couple of months ago, the Bureau of Land Management got thousands of e-mails opposing the project. However, the messages about Gooseberry have to go the right people. It does little good to write to Congressman Jim Matheson about the project, because he already opposes it. Mail should go to Senator Bob Bennett's office (you can contact him through his website at www.senate.gov/~bennett/utah.html) or to Rick Gold (you can contact him at their website www.usbr.gov/uc/aboutus/rdwel2.html) the regional manager of the BOR.
Next, many Carbon residents either have relatives or good friends who live in Sanpete County. Talk to them about the situation and see if they really understand what is going on. Based on talking with some I know and others who know people there, many of them don't realize, first what it may cost them, particularly those that will not benefit from the project and and second, what such a dam could do to our part of the state. The fact that less than 50 people attended the BOR scoping meeting in Manti earlier this fall, and most of them were county officials, should tell all of us that few people there are really up on the facts. If you find those that you talk to from Sanpete are alarmed about the situation, get them to make contact with government officials as well. Most politicians and government leaders expect opposition from the eastern part of the state, but a strong showing of opposition from the Sanpitch Drainage area would definitely catch their attention.
It's time we fought for our community's dream.