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Chaffetz states Gooseberry a go

Congressman: Jason Caffetz

Sanpete Messenger

When Rep. Jason Chaffetz became Sanpete countys congressman, some wondered if he would be as big an advocate of the Gooseberry Narrows Dam project as his predecessor, Chris Cannon, was.

Chaffetz put that question squarely to rest last week.

"We're going to fight to make this happen," he said during a tour of the proposed dam site at the top of Fairview Canyon. "Any hurdle they [opponents] put up for us, we'll get over it."

Chaffetz made time for the tour during his visit to Sanpete County to hold a town hall meeting on Sept. 2.

"This project has gone on for way too long," he said, echoing what the project's supporters have been saying for several years to get the 70-plus-year-old project finally off the ground. "It still has a ways to go, but we've made progress, and I'm optimistic."

Part of that progress mentioned specifically by Chaffetz was the Utah Legislature's passage earlier this year of a resolution in support of the project, sponsored by Utah House Rep. Brad Winn. It was the first time the Narrows project had anything that looked like statewide backing.

"I think we've crossed a bridge about what the state as a whole thinks about this," said Winn, who was among the site's tour group.

That kind of broad support will be important if Congress is to look seriously at the project.

Having that kind of broad support among Utah's congressional delegation would be helpful too in that regard. But there's still one of Utah's representatives to Congress who's holding out Second District Congressman Jim Matheson.

There again, though, Chaffetz was hopeful.

"I've supported some of his projects outside of the district, so I hope he reciprocates," he said.

Chaffetz was invited to tour the dam site by Greg Soter, a public relations and marketing official who has taken on the Gooseberry project on behalf of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District.

"I wanted very much for him [Chaffetz] to be able to say to people, 'I have been there. I can envision this thing. I know what this thing is. It doesn't only look good on paper,'" Soter said.

The visit also anticipated the release in future weeks of an environmental impact study (EIS) performed by the Bureau of Reclamation. Following the release of that document, expected perhaps as early as October, there will be a 60-day period for public comment on the statement. Those comments will become a part of the official study and will be used by officials to help determine whether or not the project should move forward.

Soter and other proponents plan to conduct a vigorous campaign to get supporters to comment on the EIS.

"What we need to do is provide written comment on the EIS," Soter said. "There will undoubtedly be negative comment. Any favorable comment we get from any entity or individual is going to be helpful."

There, too, Chaffetz was encouraging.

"We're coming up on an important milestone," the congressman said. "When they start the clock ticking on that comment period, that's a good thing."

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