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Staff column: Dam could affect eastern Utah growth

Sun Advocate publisher

There are many issues that we need to concern ourselves with in Carbon County: Land use, crime, drug use and Highway 6 are some of those that come to mind to most people. But one that doesn't and may be of most importance of all is water, and our supply of it.

Recently the Bureau of Reclamation issued a supplemental environmental impact statement on building the Gooseberry Narrows dam in Sanpete County. The idea of the construction of this dam has been bantered back and forth for almost 80 years. Now it seems the Sanpete Water Conservency District think they have a winning combination to do it.

The dam would capture water from melted snow that falls in Sanpete County and trap it in a 17,000 acre foot reservoir. For some this may seem innocuous. But the natural drainage for the water is down Gooseberry and Fish Creek where it ends up in Scofield Reservoir and then through the rest of the system finally flowing into the Colorado River.

So basically this dam would take water away from Carbon County.

No one argues that Sanpete is due 5,400 acre feet of water per year from that drainage. In fact they get that every year through a tunnel that was constructed over 100 years ago. But Sanpete doesn't like the way it flows; it mostly comes in the spring and early summer leaving their agriculture drier in later summer. They want the reservoir as a valve to use the water when they want, and as a reserve for years when there is drought. The problem is that the water to fill that reservoir and keep it filled takes water from Carbon County.

Transbasin diversions are always one sided, with someone losing. In this case it would be Carbon County. In drought years Scofield could well look more like a puddle than a reservoir if this happens. If you are in doubt about what transbasin diversions do take a look at the Owens Valley in northern California. Once lush and green it is now a desert because southern California took most of its water for its growing megolopolis 100 years ago.

We need industrial diversification in this area to get ourselves away from depending so much on coal for our employment. Yet one of the first things a company that may want to relocate here asks when they are investigating our area is about the availability of water. Up to this point it has sometimes been a hangup on getting them here. But if there is even less water than we now have good jobs beyond energy will never happen.

This dam, if built, will affect every man, woman and child that lives in Carbon County. This is not just about farmers and ranchers, it is about everyone.

You have a chance to fight this project and everyone needs to do that. Jim Matheson opposes this dam, but the rest of your congressional delegation favors it. Apparently the governor also favors its construction. We need to send them a message by calling and writing them. We also need to make comments on the study itself to the Bureau of Reclamation.

You also have a chance to comment on what this means in a meeting that will be held at the Price Civic Auditorium on April 29 from 6 to 9 p.m. The BOR will be there to listen. They said in their announcement they would do that, but that they wouldn't reply in the meeting to those comments. Local people need to pack that building and give them a piece of our mind about a dam that could damage our area unrepairably.

If ever there was a time we need to stand united against something, this is it.

And stay tuned to the Sun Advocate for more details.

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