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Front Page » March 16, 2006 » Local News » BOR Updates Status Of Scofield Dam Spillway Project
Published 3,495 days ago

BOR Updates Status Of Scofield Dam Spillway Project

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Sun Advocate reporter

Water flows over the release way at Scofield Reservoir. While some thought construction on the new structure including the spillway would begin this year, it looks now as if it will not. Water will be kept five feet below the spillway until the project is finished sometime in 2008. Bureau of Reclamation officials recently told local agencies that a detour and cofferdam will be constructed this year in preparation for the new dam.

In compliance with the Utah Code, members of the Price River Distribution Committee met with state engineers Tuesday to discuss and organize the schedule for the upcoming water season.

The committee meets annually in the early spring to set water distribution policy.

The committee is comprised of representatives of industry, municipal users, and agricultural users.

Tom Bruno is committee chair. Harold Cunningham is vice chair and serves as industrial representative.

The municipal representative on the panel is Gary Sonntag. The agricultural representative is Dale Mathis and Robert Davis serves as river commissioner.

Two United States Bureau of Reclamation officials were also in attendance at the March 14 meeting.

The BOR representatives were resource manager Edward Vidmar and field engineering manager Curti Pledger from the federal agency's Provo office.

The meeting was conducted at the Price River Water Improvement District boardroom.

The session was also attended by representatives from the Carbon Canal Company and PRWID.

At the beginning of the meeting, Pledger gave an update about the Scofield dam spillway project.

The BOR engineering manager explained that the spillway is made of concrete that was poured during World War II with 1940-era cement.

Pledger said there is no rebar and no chemical treatments in the cement as would be used today.

Modern concrete is much better and stronger and is treated to mitigate the effects of freezing and thawing cycles.

The spillway lacks several features that will be included in the upgrade project planned at Scofield dam, added the BOR engineering manager.

Pointing to the need for a major overhaul at the Scofield structure, Pledger described how other spillways at other dam sites have failed due to a process called hydro-lifting.

Hydro-lifting happens when water running down the spillway seeps under the concrete and loosens the slabs.

In extreme circumstances, the process can lead to a failure of the concrete spillway.

Work to improve the spillway is considered to be a critical dam upgrade that needs to be accomplished soon.

Pledger said the reclamation bureau plans to replace and rebuild the entire spillway system.

The BOR engineering manager then gave a presentation on the federal government's plans for the Scofield dam improvements and the timetable for the work.

Pledger indicated that engineering plan for the spillway project will be finalized in April.

Once the plan is finalized, the federal agency anticipates that it will take at least 90 days to get congressional approval to proceed.

The BOR engineering manager indicated that he hopes to have the construction contract awarded by the end of the summer.

But awarding the contract on the Scofield spillway improvement project will remain contingent upon finalizing the engineering plans and funding being approved by the U.S. Congress.

Pledger said the spillway improvement project is expected to take two years to complete.

The federal agency does not expect to start until spring 2007.

In the interim, Pledger said work will begin to modify the gatehouse at the dam, and UDOT will construct a highway detour that will also serve as a cofferdam upstream from the construction site. He expects the highway detour/cofferdam to be started sometime this summer, and to be completed before next winter.

Pledger explained that the Bureau will mandate keeping the reservoir water level below the spillway until the project is completed sometime in 2008. For that reason, the reservoir will not be allowed to reach capacity levels for the next 3 years at least. The water level will be kept at least 6.5 feet below the spillway when construction begins, and will be kept at 5 feet below the spillway this season. A large amount of runoff water is currently being released into the price river to keep the reservoir water level at the projected elevation. This will continue through the spring snowmelt season, and will most likely happen for the next two years as well.

Understandably, many water users are not happy with the projected 3 years of lower water levels in Scofield. Many livelihoods in the valley depend on stored water. There was a discussion about the need for the bureau and state water board to work closely in monitoring the water loss to be sure that the reservoir level is not pulled down too far.

Richard Lee pointed out to everyone that if the lake level is managed at 5 feet below the spillway this year, the resulting water storage capacity is calculated to be about 52,000 acre feet of water which will be sufficient for everyone's needs.

2006 is expected to be a good water year for farmers, but there was some discussion about going into next winter with low water reserves in the reservoir. Water users are nervous about being at the mercy of the weather for the 2007 and 2008 water seasons.

PRWID manager Phil Palmer questioned the Bureau of Reclamation officials about funding for the project. He explained that it was his understanding that no state money has been approved for the highway bypass and cofferdam construction yet.

Pledger said that he had been assured that state money was available, and Richard Lee told everyone that state money is being allocated from federal highway bridge funds pledged to the state, and not from the UDOT budget. Money is available to begin the highway detour this summer, he said.

River Commissioner Robert Davis then presented an annual report that summed up water usage and distribution in the Price River drainage for 2005, and gave an account of financials. He said that today there is calculated to be 36,521 acre feet of water in the Scofield reservoir, as compared to only 10,658 acre feet for this same time last year. He expects 2006 to be a very good water year.

In other business, the Price River Distribution System chairman, water commissioner, and board, were reinstated for another year. The remainder of the meeting was then taken up with routine budget and housekeeping matters.

Those in attendance were told that recent legislation has given the state water engineer power to investigate water rights issues. Water rights violators, those who use or waste water belonging to another person or entity, may be subjected to fines and penalties up to $5,000 per day for willful violations.

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