Utah Second District Congressman Jim Matheson sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar stating in no uncertain terms that he feels that the proposed Gooseberry Dam would be an undesirable project to build under the present plans that Sanpete County and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) have for the project.
"In the late 1990's, the expected cost of the dam was between $60-80 million," wrote Matheson. "At this time, it is not clear how much the project will truly cost. Additionally, the construction of this new dam at Gooseberry will adversely affect the water users in neighboring Carbon County, which is in my congressional district."
In the letter, Matheson went on to say that the proposed dam site was located on a known active earthquake fault and that its construction could also have "negative effects on one of the premier trout fishing streams in Utah."
The Gooseberry controversy has been somewhat quiet for a couple of years. But the election of Jason Chaffetz last year and his subsequent visit to the site of the proposed dam this past summer have relit the controversy. In a statement at the time of his visit to the dam site before the Sanpete officials who were present, he said, "We're going to fight to make this happen. Any hurdle they (opponents) put up for us we'll get over it."
At the time, as reported by the Sanpete Messenger, Chaffetz also said that Matheson owed him one.
"I've supported some of his projects outside of the district, so I hope he reciprocates," he stated.
Some residents in the water community around Carbon County wondered if that statement was true, but Matheson put a squash on that belief with his letter.
"The users of Sanpete County deserve access to their water, but I believe it is important to evaluate alternatives that are much less costly and may have fewer negative effects on the two counties, Sanpete and Carbon," he stated. "It's my understanding that a number of viable alternatives exist."
Matheson also pointed out that the Bureau of Reclamation has recommended that work on a supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (that was started because of a record of decision from a previous EIS had been rescinded by a court) that was begun in 1998, be recommenced.
"Given that so many stakeholders in Utah are interested in this project, I ask that you give careful consideration to all sides before moving forward with this project," Matheson concluded.